David Gilbert's second novel, & Sons debuted today to strong praise, with NPR calling it "smart and savage," Bloomberg praising it as "brilliant" and Entertainment Weekly noting the novel's "fearlessness." Which is all great: we are genuinely delighted for Gilbert. We only wish we could get past the title.
The problem, of course, is that ampersand. The novel's protagonist is a retired Salinger type who first found success with a novel called Ampersand. Get it? We bet you do. But how do you pronounce the title of a novel whose title begins with a logogram, instead of an actual word? Is it "And" Sons or "Ampersand" Sons? This is the sort of questions that keep people up at night. Book critic Ron Charles of The Washington Post, is probably more upset about the title than anyone, riffing on the issue in a blog post titled "That &%$! book title":
Take note: It’s not “And Sons.” It’s “& Sons.” Even the copyright page lists the title as “& Sons.” So, no, that elegant curlicue isn’t a designer’s flourish; it’s the author’s conscious choice.
Charles asked Gilbert what his problem was and got the following email response: “I just happen to love ampersands and I kind of constructed the whole novel around that twisty knot of a sign. All the characters are tied up in that ampersand.” Hmmm. Not sure if we're buying that.