Larry Brown has been a force in American literature since taking critics by storm with his debut collection, Facing the Music, in 1988. His subsequent work—five novels, another story collection, and two books of nonfiction—continued to bring extraordinary praise and national attention to the writer New York Newsday called a "master."
In November 2004, Brown sent the nearly completed manuscript of his sixth novel to his literary agent. A week later, he died of a massive heart attack. He was fifty-three years old.
A Miracle of Catfish is that novel. Brown's trademarks—his raw detail, pared-down prose, and characters under siege—are all here.
This beautiful, heartbreaking anthem to the writer's own North Mississippi land and the hard-working, hard-loving, hard-losing men it spawns is the story of one year in the lives of five characters—an old farmer with a new pond he wants stocked with baby catfish; a bankrupt fish pond stocker who secretly releases his forty-pound brood catfish into the farmer's pond; a little boy from the trailer home across the road who inadvertently hooks the behemoth catfish; the boy's inept father; and a former convict down the road who kills a second time to save his daughter.
That Larry Brown died so young, and before he could seeA Miracle of Catfish published, is a tragedy. That he had time to enrich the legacy of his work with this remarkable book is a blessing.read more
Larry Brown was born in Lafayette County, Mississippi, where he lived all his life. At the age of thirty, a captain in the Oxford Fire Department, he decided to become a writer and worked toward that goal for seven years before publishing his first book, Facing the Music, a collection of stories, in 1988. With the publication of his first novel, Dirty Work, he quit the fire station in order to write fulltime. Between then and his untimely death in 2004, he published seven more books. His three grown children and his widow, Mary Annie Brown, live near Oxford.read more
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This sprawling novel was unfinished when Mississippi writer Brown (Dirty Work, etc.) died at 53 in 2004. (It remains so, according to a note from editor Shannon Ravenel, who includes Brown's own notes for how the novel would end.) Cortez Sharp, a widower in his later years, decides to build a catfish pond on his Mississippi acreage, mostly because the pond will serve (he imagines drily and obliquely) to bring others around and assuage his dark loneliness. Nearby live young Jimmy and his ne'er-do-well father ("Jimmy's daddy"). There's also Lucinda, who is Cortez's daughter and the mother of Albert, a young man with Tourette's syndrome who speaks in rhyming obscenities. Lucinda pops tranquilizers and has a talent for getting into odd squabbles (over the quality of pigs' feet in a supermarket, for one). Elsewhere, Cleve, an African-American ex-con, kills a soldier who is the object of his daughter's affections and hides the body in the woods. Despite the cuts that Ravenel says were made (marked in the text with ellipses), there's a lot of superfluously detailed family history, interior monologue and Dixie atmospherics. Would-be boffo sequences (Cortez driving a tractor into the pond; Jimmy becoming inconsolable when his father sells his beloved Go Kart), are not sharp enough to carry one through. (May) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved