Monday, February 11, 2008

Book: "Father and Son"

Larry Brown writes about the people in whom no one is interested. Call them poor white trash, trailer park people, red necks. Even these terms exalt some of them for whom Wal-Mart is aspirational shopping.

But these are real people with the same emotions and problems and dreams as the rest of us, but they are perched so perilously close to the edge of complete ruin that everyday life situations take on an air of dramatic anticipation that is missing from the stories of the middle class and their betters.

"Father and Son" is one of Brown’s early works and a strong example of his ability to know the people around whom he grew up. The title might refer to any of 4-5 pairs of fathers and sons woven into the story, most prominently half-brothers Glenn and Bobby and their father Virgil. Glenn and Bobby are evil and good, and the book follows, and eventually resolves their relationship.

Brown’s work is not so much plot driven as it is psychologically insightful and stylistically unique. The language is raw but elegant; poetic but plain. It is detailed and yet stripped of ornamentation. The New York Times compared this work to Faulkner.

Brown was born in 1951 and spent 17 years as an Oxford, Mississippi fireman. He never attended college but learned his craft by writing hundreds of short stories and books over 20 years and reading hundreds of rejection letters before an editor saw the power and originality in his work. The movie "Big Bad Love" is based on one of his short stories. He died a few years ago.

I recommend this, and anything else I’ve read by him, to anyone interested in reading an original voice.

1 comment:

Birdman said...

I read this about a year ago and really liked it. For non-fiction I'd recommend "Long Road Home" by Martha Raddatz. Sort of a combination of Black Hawk Down and We Were Soldiers. Really well written.