Friday, May 27, 2022

FFB: DIRTY WORK, Larry Brown


More and more it is this sort of novel that attracts me. Not exactly crime novels but novels that chroncicle the lives of the sort of people who commit or become viictims of crimes. Books by Larry Watson, Willie Vlautin,  Larry Brown.

DIRTY WORK is the debut novel from Mississippi writer, Larry Brown, and it seemed appropriate to read it around MemoriaL Day since it's about two vets. I picked it up a decade ago and just wish I had picked up more of them. I have RABBIT FACTORY around somewhere and will dig it out now.

Walter James and Braiden Chaney are two Vietnam Vets lying side by side in a Vet hospital 20 years after the war. Chaney has basically spent the entire time in a hospital since the war left him with no arms or legs. James is newly admitted with some sort of brain trauma from a bullet lodge in his head. He has also been badly scarred from his years in Vietnam. 
The two men eventually trade war stories, but this book does much more than that. It painted the lives of the sort of men who couldn't dodge the war--the down and dirty life they led in northern Mississippi. Much of Chaney's thoughts are dream-induced and almost biblical in theme. Who could spend 20 years in a bed and not retreat to such a place?

The two men do a lot of drinking with the beer Chaney's sister smuggles in.  They also smoke a lot of pot. Their stories are different and the same. It was men like these two who served in Vietnam and never recovered from it. They either died in body or died in spirit. An amazing and thought-provoking book.

What is your favorite book about Vietnam or its aftermath? Mine would be IN COUNTRY by Bobbie Ann Mason.


Steve A Oerkfitz said...

I'm a big fan of Larry Brown. I've read pretty much everything he wrote. His novel Joe was made into a pretty good movie starring Nick Cage.
My favorite book about Vietnam is The Things They Carried by Tim O'Brien.
Other writers in this vein include Daniel Ray pollock, Allen Eskens and David Joy.

Todd Mason said...

IN COUNTRY is one of my favorite post-VW novels, as is THE SHORT-TIMERS by Gustav Hasford among During the VietNam War novels. I still have a sneaking fondness for the first Marcia Muller novel I read, TROPHIES AND DEAD THINGS, which is relevant. But, of course, the Hap and Leonard series of novels and stories by Joe Lansdale also rates high for me.

O'Brien's THINGS and Michael Herr's DISPATCHES certainly among the best nonfiction about the war/US GIs' experience of it I've seen. David Harris's DREAMS DIE HARD rates, too. particularly in terms of aftermath.

Margot Kinberg said...

I know what you mean about books that focus on character development like this, Patti. I think they give us an interesting perspective on what's behind the way people behave, if that makes sense.

pattinase (abbott) said...

THINGS is brilliant. And DISPATCHES too. Keep meaning to read the novels of Nguyen for another look at it.
Although it is fun to read puzzles and whodunits , there is a place for this too, I think, Margpt

George said...

DOG SOLIDERS by Robert Stone still resonates decades after it was published.

Jeff Meyerson said...

IN COUNTRY was good. I loved THE THINGS THEY CARRIED by Tim O'Brien. I've read a lot of Vietnam-related books over the years.

I did like the Brown book. It reminded me somewhat of JOHNNY GOT HIS GUN by Dalton Trumbo. I liked Brown's short stories (FACING THE MUSIC and BIG BAD LOVE) and his memoir of being a volunteer firefighter (ON FIRE), He died way too young at 54.

Jeff Meyerson said...

ALl the ones mentioned would be on my list too - the Hasford and Stone and Michael Herr books. I read Nguyen's first book and it was certainly a different perspective.

Jeff Meyerson said...


pattinase (abbott) said...

I must have read NAMES because I always read O'Nan but I don't remember it. Will have to check.

Todd Mason said...

Elmore Leonard's FREAKY DEAKY being his major comment on the VW aftermath, as far as I've read. And worth the time.