Larry Brown (July 9, 1951 – November 24, 2001) is one of the most important contemporary Southern writers, and he is also one of the most important American writers. Brown’s work often focuses on the rural and small-town working class and those members of society who haven’t quite got their toe hold, or they’ve had it and lost it. He writes about men, women, and children struggling toward something better than what they have. His stories are real, they are gritty, and some would say they are gothic. I say they’re damn good, and through his work, Larry Brown has become one of my best teachers. You’ll hear more about Brown’s work in each installment this month.
Brown left this world with a lot of stories unwritten, but he also left a legacy of instruction any writer would be smart to study. Larry Brown has said a writer signs on for an apprenticeship, and no one knows how long his or her apprenticeship will last. Brown also once said he shot and burned an early novel and would have hung it if he could have figured out how to do it. Yet he learned enough from the writing of that novel to do a better job writing the next novel. Barry Hannah says in the introduction to Brown’s last novel, Miracle of Catfish, that when Brown showed him the short story “Facing the Music” Hannah was foolish enough to think Brown had peaked. Larry Brown was just getting his engine warm.
It strikes me that people may be interested, too, in an introductory essay to Night Train I wrote some years ago, an essay that concerns Larry Brown.
More next week, people, when I come up for air.