Southern Literature Project: Larry Brown’s ‘Father and Son’

Fatherandson_3 Larry Brown’s Father and Son

"The truth of the matter is that Brown is one of the best writers we have, able in a sentence or or two to cut to the heart of things." – The Washington Post

With themes reminiscent of Faulkner, Larry Brown’s writing is a pared-down, sparing portrait of characters who could be descendants of characters from Yoknapatawpha County. Readers afraid of Faulkner may be more comfortable reading Larry Brown’s prose, just as a way of getting their literary feet wet. There’s no substitute for WF, but there’s definitely no harm starting with Larry Brown.

Father and Son positively seethes with anger, with a particular brand of vengeful anger laced with blind ignorance that’s so sinister and frightening to watch. At the start of the book Glen Davis has been released from prison after serving three years for killing a child he’d hit with his car while under the influence of alcohol. Returning home to the small Mississippi town he grew up in he’s bent on vengeance against those he sees as having wronged him.

As the book progresses he goes on a murderous rampage, seeking his own justice. The prose is brilliant and masterful, creating suspense in a sparing way:

"He cocked the hammer now and swung the barrel up to this father’s head and held the black and yawning muzzle of it an inch away. He tightened his fingers on the checkered pistol grip. The old man slept on, father and son. Some sense of foreboding told him to pull back and undo all of this before it was done. Yet he put his finger on the trigger, just touched it. He already knew what it would look like.

Virgil moved in his sleep, made a small sound almost like a cough. The puppy whined outside. The house was quiet but for that.

He raised the barrel and caught the hammer with this thumb and eased back on the trigger, letting it down. He went out the door, lighting a cigarette, hurrying."

An excellent start to my Southern Literature Project. I’ll definitely be reading more of the late Larry Brown’s works.

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