Another Brick in the Wall —Larry Brown

5 Mar

One should not make too much that the New York Times took almost a week to recognize the passing of the esteemed Tennessee writer William Gay. No doubt it takes a while for such news from the distant precincts of American literature to reach the rarefied heights of the news that the Times sees fit to print.Though it must be said that my Morning News comrade Clay Risen, who is employed by Times, was on the case:

There was something heroic about William. To write, to produce something lasting for the rest of us to enjoy, and maybe learn from, he submitted himself to ridicule, ostracism, odd looks in the convenience store. And for the better part of four decades, he batted a goose egg in that particular game. It’s easy to aspire to the life of a Brooklyn novelist or a Left Bank poet. But how many of us would have the perseverance, the commitment to art of a William Gay?

Far be it for me to refresh the argument about the bad shake Southern writers get in the the so-called American literary conversation. But I am reminded of another child of the South who died young (I am tempted to use that stilted phrase “before his time”)—Mississippian firefighter and novelist, Larry Brown. Thankfully, Jean Cash has seen fit to commemorate that fine writer with Larry Brown: A Writer’s Life (U of Mississippi Press)

Brown’s incomparable editor, Shannon Ravenel, introduces Brown’s tale:

He was a writer whose creative impulse was to turn his gaze directly onto men and women challenged by crisis and pathology and compel his readers to face the music with him.

The story of Larry Brown’s determination to become a writer and of his own struggles and triumphs is a great one. Jean Cash has turned over every stone in recounting the story and given what she has found the beauty of expression that his life deserves…

Happily Arliss Howard and his spouse, Debra Winger, made a wonderful film Big Bad Love using some autobiographical stories by Larry Brown

to add to Brown’s legacy.

Currently reading: The Might Have Beens by Joseph Schuster (Ballantine)

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