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Wednesday, April 06, 2011

Big Bad Love

And the new South, thank God, it's still the same Hank Jr was singing in the early 90s. He was probably wrong and Southern blacks will be thankful for that, yet the South still has a certain dirty edge to it that strongly appeals to me. Larry Brown, the author of the story collection Big Bad Love is not - overtly (but that gets into a completely different discussion that I won't to avoid here) - racist, he's no recidivist of Southern history, but he is still a hick, he drinks (or his main character, a - caricature? - self-portrayal) too much and stumbles along from mishap to mishap in a life that didn't seem to have worked out as planned. That is the strength of his - and Southern in general - writing though, it doesn't deal with those happy and beautiful people we know from a glossy Hollywood films. Life for Larry Brown is not a suite of exciting events, rather it just kind of happens and most often what happens is not all that great actually. The life he portrays is much closer to what life really is like - to cite Johnny Cash: 'guess things happen that way' - and much more cruel than what popular cultural media often shows. Especially, the long, final last story - seemingly very autobiographical - about a writer's struggle to earn his keep maybe simply live showcases Brown's capability to make the reader understood not just what his characters deal with but the emotional situation they are involved it. Brown, true to his persona, died of a heart attack in Oxford, Mississippi at 52 years of age.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I like your point, although non-Southern American writers are also excellent at portraying lower-class, hard-drinking, no-good characters. For example:

-John Updike
-Philip Roth
-William Burroughs
-Tom Waits
-Raymond Carver
-John Cheever
-Henry Miller
-V.S. Naipaul

Just to name a few.