— Outside magazine
A Miracle of Catfishby Larry Brown
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/i>/i>
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 see A 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.
— Outside magazine
— New York Times Book Review
— USA Today
The New York Times
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)Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
- Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill
- Publication date:
- Product dimensions:
- 6.20(w) x 9.26(h) x 1.58(d)
What People are saying about this
"Larry Brown's posthumous A Miracle of Catfish is, simply enough, a triumph of the sort of visceral intensity that we have learned to expect from Brown. It is certainly a must-read for all of those concerned with American literature in our time." -Jim Harrison
Meet the Author
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.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
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Having been a fan of Larry Brown's, I am surprised there are no reviews. So, here is my review. Having read many of Brown's book and having met him in person for a signing of Big Bad Love, his writing is as pleasant as his person. Characters in this book include an old man with a pond, a big catfish, a boy named Jimmy 'with a go-cart', a recently released convict named Cleve, the old man's daughter ' a plus size model' and the daughter's Tourette syndrome boyfriend. In between there are a number of additional characters. The most important to additionally note is 'Jimmy's daddy' - Brown does not name him but in story you come to realize why. The drama of everyday life in a majority of people in the world is encapsulated by the writing of Larry Brown through the deceptively small tragedies to the effect of those tragedies 'resulting from bad decisions' on others. Yes, the end is notes, but the direction you know, and it is real in the life continues with characters in all books. That this is 'unfinished' is no reason to not read it. There are two dead bodies in this case. There are consequences of Jimmy's daddy having an affair at work 'an appliance factor where he is but a simple maintenance man'. Also culturally, the hunting, the drinking, a trailer, rite of passage of killing a deer, to the fantasy of so many good Joes of catching that big fish. They all intertwine and if you miss this book, you are missing out on the drama and comedy of everyday internal struggles that we all can relate to or have seen or suspected but have not examined or related to one another but through good writing as provided by Larry Brown. I highly recommend it for its style and its beauty in its simplicity and lessons contained within but not overtly. I recommend this writer to persons I work with, from law enforcement to my brother that works in agriculture. They have so embraced it... that there is a universality to his work that they as well as academics have appreciated.