As I was reading Rick Bass about his culinary and reading trip across the USA, I’ve found out that he was a friend of Larry Brown. He goes back to Oxford, MI where Larry lived and finds out how much he is still missed and how much he was loved.
So, I thought that I might talk to you about his second collection of stories, Big Bad Love (published in 1990).
Ten stories, which I really really enjoyed, except for one. Be aware my friends : if you love the lonely souls, that collection is made for you ! Ten male characters named Leo, Lonnie, Louis or Leon, all with the initials L.B. They all live in the rural part of Mississippi where their lives are all about bars or driving their pick-up with a cooler filled with beers. They gather in local joints, get sometimes in a fight but mostly they just keep bringing up the past, dwelling on lost things, such as a family life.
They’re all single, divorced, in more or less touch with their ex-wives and children. They have a hard time make ends meet and are looking for an escape, often in the booze, the fight and sometimes in the writing. They have debts and are often drunk. They end up in ditches, drawn and haggard, or they wake up with strangers by their side. But they’re all, in the end, looking for the same thing : love.
I can’t remember the titles of the stories but I still have in mind that married man, who every night goes to bed and is awaken by his wife who’s persuaded she has heard noise downstaires. He knows there’s nothing, so he pretends not to hear, to be sleeping, but she keeps calling him and at last he gets up and goes downstairs. Another story puts forward the war veterans, who live alone – damaged too much to raise a family. They only have theirs friends to hold on and one night, when one doesn’t show up, the vet goes crazy. He’s lost in landmark, his buoy to keep his heard out of the water.
I was once again moved by these men, who are are looking for love and a common sense in their drinking binges. They want respect, attention and kindness.
A word about the last story, 92 days, it was also published as a novella (92 pages).
It’s a story about a man who wants to become a writer. He has lost his job, his wife and his kids to pursue his dream. He only works to meet ends. Sometimes he has no inspiration for days but he never gives up because the words are the magic keys who keep him alive after a set of tragedies. One last image : this other man who’d rather spend hours driving his car rather than going home, to his wife he’s not sure he’s in love with.
Larry Brown has stolen my heart.
Algonquin Books, available on Amazon