Patric DeWitt – The Sisters Brothers (The Literateur, 2011)

Published in November 2011. Read the full article.

From the piece:

The lifestyle of these famous Wild West killers, flattened to simplicity by De Witt, allows for a certain contemplation of those simple facts, a musing on the layers of meaning shrouded behind this simple life of horses and whiskey and brandy and gunshots.

Because really, that’s what The Sisters Brothers wants to be about: impulse, cause and effect, providence and fate, and their relationship to our actions. When they find a beautiful horse unguarded, for example, Charlie remarks ‘ “You are always harkening back in arguments, but another time is another time and thus irrelevant. Providence brought you that black horse. And what will become of the man who shuns Providence?” ‘ only for Eli to reply ‘“Providence has no place in this discussion. An Indian ate too much and died, that was the source of my good fortune.” ‘

The novel is replete with such exchanges. Of their father Eli asks ‘ “How is it that people go crazy?”’, only to receive the unsatisfying answer, ‘“It’s just a thing that sometimes happens.”’ When early in their journey to assassinate Warm the two set to kill a group they find on the road, the brothers – after their work, it had to be said – bicker about the cause of the victims’ deaths: whether it was Eli’s having them stop at an old witch’s house because of a spider’s bite, the bite of the spider itself, or Eli’s anger at not wanting to stay with the old lady in the first place. Or, perhaps, something more mysterious.

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