Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Happy Birthday, Mr. Brown. Mississippi Misses You!

Happy Birthday to one of my favorite authors in the world: Larry Brown. He died way too young. If you haven't ever heard of him, please check out his work. Beautiful storytelling. If you need another fabulous Mississippian to read, check out Brad Watson. Also wonderful. From Writer's Almanac:

It's the birthday of the novelist Larry Brown, (books by this author)born in Oxford, Mississippi (1951). He liked school when he was a kid, but read mostly hunting stories and fishing stories and cowboy stories—nothing that qualified as literature. He failed English his senior year in high school.

He enlisted in the Marines and was stationed at a barracks in Philadelphia. He spent a lot of time listening to the stories of veterans who'd come back from Vietnam. He went back to Mississippi and joined the Oxford Fire Department in 1973 and loved the job. It didn't pay well, though. He had been reading best-selling novels by Stephen King and Louis L'Amour and thought maybe he could do that too. He wrote a novel about a man-eating bear in Yellowstone Park. It got turned down by everybody. So he went to the library and checked out every how-to book about writing that he could find. He started writing short stories and started reading Flannery O'Connor and William Faulkner and Raymond Carver. His first book of stories, Facing the Music, came out in 1988. And his first novel, Dirty Work, the year after, which was based on the stories he had heard from veterans back in the Marines. The book got great reviews. And he went on to become a renowned Southern fiction writer and published three more novels before he died of a heart attack at the age of 53.

Larry Brown said, "There's no such thing as a born writer. It's a skill you've got to learn, just like learning how to be a bricklayer or a carpenter." His story Falling Out of Love begins: "Sheena Baby, the one that I loved, and I were walking around. It was late one evening. All the clouds had gathered up into big marshmallows and mushrooms, and it was an evening as fine as you could ask for, except that we had two flat tires on our car some miles back down the road and didn't know where we were or who to ask. We were about ready to kill one another."

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