Upper West Side
A portrait of the writer as wreck in '& Sons'
A portrait of the writer as wreck in '& Sons'

The fictional writer A.N. Dyer — Andrew to his family — is dying as David Gilbert's new novel "& Sons" opens. Dyer is a New York writer in the mold of J.D. Salinger: When he was in his 20s, he wrote a book about his New England prep school, a novel whose portrait of teenage angst and white privilege was a success rivaling that of "The Catcher in the Rye." Dyer is "the quintessential New York writer." And his gloomy presence is at the heart of "& Sons," whose most notable achievement is its portrait of that most respected and mysterious of artistic types: the great novelist. Dyer's success and the way he achieved it — by isolating himself from his family and mining their lives — has...