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Billy Ray's farm : essays /
Larry Brown.
edition
1st ed.
imprint
Chapel Hill, N.C. : Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill, 2001.
description
205 p. ; 22 cm.
ISBN
1565121678
format(s)
Book
Holdings
More Details
imprint
Chapel Hill, N.C. : Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill, 2001.
isbn
1565121678
catalogue key
4420154
A Look Inside
About the Author
Author Affiliation
Larry Brown is the author of seven previous books, including the acclaimed memoir On Fire. His most recent is Fay, a novel. His books have won many prizes and awards, including two Southern Book Critics Circle awards for fiction and the Lila Wallace-Reader's Digest Writer's Award. He lives near Oxford, Mississippi, on family land
Awards
This item was nominated for the following awards:
Excerpts
Flap Copy
Here, in nine stunning pieces, Larry Brown aims for nothing short of ruthlessly capturing the truth of the geography that shaped him and his art. He tells what it's like to be constantly compared with William Faulkner, a writer whom he shares the undeniable inspiration of the Mississippi land. Here is the pond Larry reclaims and restocks on his place in Tula. Here is the Oxford bar crowd on a wild goose chase t a fabled fishing event. Here is the literary sensation trying to outsmart a wily coyote intent on killing the farm's baby goats. And here, overlooking the pond, is the writing cabin built with the writer's own hands. Woven in are intimate reflections on the Southern musicians and writers whose work has inspired Brown's and the thrill of his first literary recognition. But the centerpiece of this book is the long title essay, which embodies every element of Larry Brown's most emotional attachments - to the family, the land, the animals. It is a beautiful and important expression of the mysterious sources of a writer's motivation. This is an invaluable book for every reader interested in how a great writer responds, both personally and artistically, to the patch of land he lives on.
Flap Copy
Here, in nine stunning pieces, Larry Brown aims for nothing short of ruthlessly capturing the truth of the geography that shaped him and his art. He tells what it's like to be constantly compared with William Faulkner, a writer whom he shares the undeniable inspiration of the Mississippi land.Here is the pond Larry reclaims and restocks on his place in Tula. Here is the Oxford bar crowd on a wild goose chase t a fabled fishing event. Here is the literary sensation trying to outsmart a wily coyote intent on killing the farm's baby goats. And here, overlooking the pond, is the writing cabin built with the writer's own hands. Woven in are intimate reflections on the Southern musicians and writers whose work has inspired Brown's and the thrill of his first literary recognition.But the centerpiece of this book is the long title essay, which embodies every element of Larry Brown's most emotional attachments - to the family, the land, the animals. It is a beautiful and important expression of the mysterious sources of a writer's motivation. This is an invaluable book for every reader interested in how a great writer responds, both personally and artistically, to the patch of land he lives on.
First Chapter
Prologue

A long time ago when I was a boy, there was one slab of concrete that stretched from Oxford to Toccopola, a distance of about sixteen miles, and that was the road everybody used to get to town. It was kind of like half of a road, with one side concrete, the other side dirt and gravel. If you were heading to town, you could stay on the concrete all the way and never have to get off on the gravel side. And if you were coming from town, you could get on the concrete part and drive on the wrong side of the road until you met somebody, and then you had to jump back onto the gravel.

That road has been gone for a long time, but I still remember the swaying of the car as my father went from one side of the road to the other. Everybody did it and nobody ever thought anything about it.

A trip to town on Saturday was a big event. The Square in Oxford has changed some, true, but by and large it still retains the image I have of it from thirty years ago. It is still lined with stores and parked cars, and the big oaks still stand on the courthouse lawn, and the Confederate soldier is still standing there high above everything so that you can see him first when you come up the long drive of South Lamar. What has changed is the nature of the town. A long time ago you could find people selling vegetables from the backs of their trucks, and you could go in Winter's Cafe and get a hamburger and a short-bottled Coke for sixty-five cents. You can't even buy an Egg McMuffin on University Avenue for that.

Faulkner would probably be flabbergasted to know that there are several bars on the Square now, and that blues music can often be heard wailing out of the open doors on hot summer nights, floating around the air on the Square, lifting up to the balconies of the apartments that line the south side, where people are having drinks and conversing. It's not like it was when he was around. Life was hard for some. Blacks were oppressed. The drinking fountains on the Square were labeled Colored and White. That world doesn't exist anymore.

What does exist is the memory of it, a faded remnant of the way things were. Write about what you know, yes, even if it doesn't exist anymore.

When I wrote my novel Father and Son, people wondered why I set it back in the sixties. The answer to that is very simple. When I wrote the first scene, where Glen Davis and his brother Puppy are driving back into town, I didn't see the Square I see now, with Square Books on the left side of South Lamar and Proud Larrys' on the right. I saw that old Oxford, the one where Grace Crockett's shoe store stood in the place now occupied by a restaurant and bar called City Grocery, and I saw the old trucks with wooden roofs built over the back ends to shield the watermelons and roasting ears and purple hull peas from the heat of the sun, and I saw a battered old dusty car that my two characters were riding in, and I knew that it had a shift on the column, and an AM radio with

Full Text Reviews
Appeared in Publishers Weekly on 2001-03-05:
Celebrated for depicting the dark, seamy side of Southern life, Mississippi novelist Brown (Fay; Father and Son) turns to sunnier topics in this loose-jointed collection of essays paying tribute to the people and places that influenced his writing. The title piece, a rueful reflection on son Billy Ray's persistent bad luck with cattle, sets the tone: despite dead calves, misbehaving bulls, rampaging coyotes and dilapidated fences, father and son remain optimistic. "Billy Ray's farm does not yet exist on an earthly plane," writes Brown. "On Billy Ray's farm there will be total harmony, wooden fence rows straight as a plumb line, clean, with no weeds, no rusted barbed wire." As Brown details his own efforts to impose harmony on his farm by building a house ("Shack"), protecting his stock from predators ("Goatsongs"), clearing brush and stocking fish ("By the Pond"), he balances pastoral odes with a clear-eyed accounting of the costs of country living. That realism gives Brown's narratives a plainspoken truth that makes more believable the simple pleasures he takes in these simple tasks. The writer's home life in Oxford, Miss., is more compelling than his chronicles of book tours and writers conferences ("The Whore in Me"), but the latter is kept to a minimum. More successful are the tributes to literary mentors Harry Crews and Madison Jones and to the men who taught him "the fine points of guns and dogs" after his father's death, when Brown was 16. These humble personal essays, which provide a glimpse at the long apprenticeship of a writer who came up the hard way, leave the reader hoping Brown will soon tackle a full-blown autobiography. (Apr.) Forecast: Brown receives rave reviews for his novels and has a devoted following. This should sell well for Algonquin, especially in the South. (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved
Appeared in Library Journal on 2001-03-01:
In the prolog to this collection of essays, Brown (Fay, On Fire, Big Bad Love) states, "You can't pick where you're born or raised. You take what you're given, whether it's the cornfields of the Midwest or the coal mines of West Virginia, and you make your fiction out of it. It's all you have. And somehow, wherever you are, it always seems to be enough." His essays underscore this sense of place with descriptions of life on his land near Oxford, MI. These essays read much like good fiction. They offer intrigue (will he get the free fish as part of the big deal on the spillway at Enid Reservoir or bag the coyote that has torn open the throats of their baby goats?), humor (holding the tail of his son's young Holstein bull while they try to get it into the pasture at Billy Ray's farm), and experience (with mentors, literary conferences, and book-signing tours). Recommended for all libraries. Sue Samson, Univ. of Montana Lib., Missoula (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
Reviews
This item was reviewed in:
Kirkus Reviews, February 2001
Booklist, March 2001
Library Journal, March 2001
Publishers Weekly, March 2001
Washington Post, March 2001
USA Today, April 2001
Boston Globe, July 2001
To find out how to look for other reviews, please see our guides to finding book reviews in the Sciences or Social Sciences and Humanities.
Summaries
Back Cover Copy
Brown will show you another America - his America - and dare you to try again to forget that it still exists. - USA Today "Brown writes like a boxer - economical, crisp, wounding." - Men's Journal "He's an ex-Marine and ex-fireman, a writer without gimmick who happens to possess a prodigious natural talentT He's one of the best we have." - Washington Post Book World
Back Cover Copy
Brown will show you another America - his America - and dare you to try again to forget that it still exists. - USA Today"Brown writes like a boxer - economical, crisp, wounding." - Men's Journal"He's an ex-Marine and ex-fireman, a writer without gimmick who happens to possess a prodigious natural talentT He's one of the best we have." - Washington Post Book World
Main Description
Brown delivers a series of nine essays that assail the Mississippi farm life of his early years. Woven in are intimate reflections on the South and its musicians, writers, farmers, fishers and dreamers that Brown has grown to know so well.
Main Description
In his first work of nonfiction since the acclaimed On Fire , Brown aims for nothing short of ruthlessly capturing the truth of the world in which he has always lived. In the prologue to the book, he tells what it's like to be constantly compared with William Faulkner, a writer with whom he shares inspiration from the Mississippi land. The essays that follow show that influence as undeniable. Here is the pond Larry reclaims and restocks on his place in Tula. Here is the Oxford bar crowd on a wild goose chase to a fabled fishing event. And here is the literary sensation trying to outsmart a wily coyote intent on killing the farm's baby goats. Woven in are intimate reflections on the Southern musicians and writers whose work has inspired Brown's and the thrill of his first literary recognition. But the centerpiece of this book is the title essay which embodies every element of Larry Brown's most emotional attachments-to the family, the land, the animals. This is a book for every Larry Brown fan. It is also an invaluable book for every reader interested in how a great writer responds, both personally and artistically, to the patch of land he lives on.
Main Description
In his first work of nonfiction since the acclaimed On Fire, Brown aims for nothing short of ruthlessly capturing the truth of the world in which he has always lived. In the prologue to the book, he tells what it's like to be constantly compared with William Faulkner, a writer with whom he shares inspiration from the Mississippi land. The essays that follow show that influence as undeniable. Here is the pond Larry reclaims and restocks on his place in Tula. Here is the Oxford bar crowd on a wild goose chase to a fabled fishing event. And here is the literary sensation trying to outsmart a wily coyote intent on killing the farm's baby goats. Woven in are intimate reflections on the Southern musicians and writers whose work has inspired Brown's and the thrill of his first literary recognition. But the centerpiece of this book is the title essay which embodies every element of Larry Brown's most emotional attachments-to the family, the land, the animals. This is a book for every Larry Brown fan. It is also an invaluable book for every reader interested in how a great writer responds, both personally and artistically, to the patch of land he lives on.
Table of Contents
Prologuep. 1
By the Pondp. 7
Thicker than Bloodp. 13
Harry Crews: Mentor and Friendp. 17
Chattanooga Nightsp. 29
Billy Ray's Farmp. 39
Fishing with Charliep. 85
So Much Fish, So Close to Home: An Improvp. 95
The Whore in Mep. 145
Goatsongsp. 155
Shackp. 173
Table of Contents provided by Syndetics. All Rights Reserved.

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