A couple of years before Larry Brown died, I struck up a correspondence with him. After reading and reviewing Billy Ray’s Farm for The Times of Acadiana in Lafayette, I sent the review to Brown at his home outside of Oxford, Mississippi. I was surprised to receive a letter from him, so I wrote to him again. In all, I think he wrote to me three times.
For the last few years I’ve had a hard time locating those letters. But this weekend, I was cleaning out and rearranging my office, and I ran across one of his letters, the one that has stuck with me the most. So I’m posting it here in hopes that I don’t lose it again.
I suspect he wrote this when he was hungover, which would account for the sorrowful – even guilty – tone at times. But that’s not why I’m sharing it. I’m struck by Brown’s ability to zero in on his target, blow it apart, and move right along as if nothing ever happened.
I first read Larry Brown’s work when I was in high school. My uncle, Steve Conn, hipped me to Dirty Work. I was floored by it. I was struck by Brown’s simplicity, his ability to throw it all out there. And I loved his subject matter – fightin’, cussin’, and drinkin’. These were the people I knew, the people I had grown up with, rode the bus with, marched in the band with, and sat in class with. I knew these folks. Painfully.
I regret that I never had the chance to met Larry Brown in person and to drink a beer with him. What’s even worse is that I regret that I’ll never be able to crack the spine on one of his latest works and be able to sink back into his words and his world.