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4.17 of 5 stars 4.17  ·  rating details  ·  1,356 ratings  ·  120 reviews
"Brilliant . . . Larry Brown has slapped his own fresh tattoo on the big right arm of Southern Lit." -"The Washington Post Book World"

Now a major motion picture starring Nicolas Cage, directed by David Gordon Green. Joe Ransom is a hard-drinking ex-con pushing fifty who just won't slow down--not in his pickup, not with a gun, and certainly not with women. Gary Jones estima...more
ebook, 358 pages
Published September 30th 2003 by Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill (first published 1980)
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Judy Vasseur
Sep 01, 2008 Judy Vasseur rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: alcoholics, smokers, NRA members, pit bull owners, pickup truck owners
Recommended to Judy by: Ron in Atlanta and Fans of Southern Literature

Hell fire! Nothing to do? Have you a cold beer and a double banana moon pie. Slip your pistol under the seat, roll the window down and cruise through a hot Mississippi night in your dented pick-up.

Ants, bees, the bugs of summer, keyed-up guard dogs, coons, snakes, are all characters as vivid as the humans in this beautifully written novel. The major characters are inanimate: liquor and firearms.

Rambunctiousness is one thing, pure evil another.

There is a caste-system in this country. Those that h...more
This story deals with characters that you may have read about before in other southern tales, ones that you may have seen in town, your local, but had never got to know more of.

The author deals with big problems in families and communities, a tale dealing with lesser than over the picket fence dream family, you get another slice of ones not quite living that dream but finding their way through the pitfalls and making decisions to make a change.

This story revolves around three men, three generati...more
I thought this was good, but not as good as Father and Son.

Brown is/was a talented writer, whose strength seems to be in the simplicity of his language and the powerful images his writing elicits in the reader's mind. It just goes to show, a really good writer can throw away his thesaurus and still create beautiful and literary prose.

Brown is also a master at creating a subtle sense of tension and feeling of hopelessness, which is a hallmark of Southern Gothic Fiction...the life sucks and then y...more
Fay, Father and Son, Joe. That’s the current order, liable to change at any time. Except I can’t imagine an order where Fay wouldn’t be first. I’m glad to know that when she walks out of the story in Joe, she walks right into her own.
Millard Johnson
If you like "earthy" southern books you may like Joe, or anything by Larry Brown. If you like vivid living characters, you will probably like Joe. If you like powerful minimalist writing, you will probably like Joe. You get the point!

I am both a writer and a reader. Larry Brown is, for me, among the top 5 most important writers of the 20th century -- along with Raymond Carver, John Steinbeck and Ernest Hemingway. Oddly, I made my book club read Joe and most of them did not like it -- so this kin...more
Southern-fried gothic. Grab a bourbon, put your car up on blocks, get depressed, and read this book. Not bad 'tall.
What can I say? I LOVE Larry Brown. I cannot be the least bit
rational or objective. I see his flaws (though they be of the sort I wish I could cultivate in my own work) and I don't mind
that the descriptions are sometimes overlong, the sentiment sometimes just a tad old fashioned. This was a writer with a heart as huge as the world. His authority to tell it like he sees it, and hang the consequences, makes for the cleanest and most heart rending prose I can think of. I get lost in his realities...more
A quick, engrossing, and yet very challenging read. Challenging, not in the difficulty of its prose, but in the stark reality portrayed by its elegantly simple prose. Excruciatingly painful to see how hard some people strive to do right and how effortlessly other people slip into total depravity. Also poignantly portrays people's perceived powerlessness to alter what appears to be their pre-ordained path. I found myself wanting to reach through the pages of this book, into the lives of those por...more
Mitch Duckworth
I’ve read some wonderful books this year, including books by some of my favorite writers, such as, Ian McEwan, Michael Chabon, Alice Munro, Junot Diaz, Gillian Flynn, Joyce Carol Oates, Dennis Lehane, Larry McMurtry, Elmore Leonard, and Kate Atkinson, and what surprises me most about Larry Brown, author of JOE, is that by virtue of that one book he has vaulted from complete obscurity within my admittedly very limited awareness of contemporary ‘greats’ to very near the tippy-top sharp end of the...more
No, this isn't about coffee. Though it is dark, bitter tasting, and has more than a few dregs to ponder at the bottom of the cup. A really strong piece of southern fiction every bit as good as the region's best, even if some of the characters leave you wanting to commit murder (similar to when you read some Pete Dexter or Cormac McCarthy or other writers of their ilk). Most of the story revolves around two characters and their emerging friendship: the main protagonist is a middle-aged Mississipp...more
The fact is Brown was better than most storytellers, and he's still one of my favorites. If somebody else had wrote this book, somebody who wasn't as incredible as Larry Brown, this book would be four stars, but Larry Brown wrote Fay and Larry Brown Wrote Dirty Work and Larry Brown wrote some of the finest short stories to come out of the south in a long time. So this get's three stars.

There were scenes of sheer brilliance in this book, but they were buried beneath mounds of text that, despite b...more
Kirk Smith
Haywire, messed up 50 yr. olds are just not an exotic enough or engaging enough subject for me. One point deducted, credit given for flawless spare style.
Reading this, some of the better parts were the descriptions that would appeal to anyone with some rural background. The rich earth smell of dirt turned behind a plow. The surprising amount of powder dry dust that collects in a house abandoned for fifty years. A teaming wasps nest in a sun baked attic. There are hundreds of those experiences...more
This is not a happy story at all but if you’re a fan of grit lit and the dirty south you will probably enjoy this book as much as I did. In a rural Mississippi town men drive old pickup trucks drinking warm beer and whiskey while chain smoking. Coons, wasps nests, opossums, copperheads and bugs are in abundance. The air is hot and there is little relief from the glaring sun.

The story centers around the unlikely friendship between Joe and Gary, but the character who really caught my attention wa...more

I read Dirty Work - hoping for the Larry Brown that had written Catfish, but that wasn't what I got. But I think Dirty was an aberration, because it seems that Brown has fallen into the same Joyce/Pynchon/etc theory of mine: great artists who have such refined and focused thoughts and commentaries, that they basically write a proof of concept novel, and spend the rest of their careers fleshing out those themes into larger tour's de force.

So the analogy is that we're throwing Joe, Portrait,...more
What a great little messed up tale. If you've ever felt like you were taking one step forward to take three steps back then you have only a taste of what this book is all about. At several points, you catch yourself thinking things are looking up for the folks that need to catch a break......not so fast; only a brief respite to allow reality an opportunity to recharge its batteries. Character development is outstanding, reads quickly, and the wonderful flow that avoids the pitfalls often spliced...more
I can't get enough of Larry Brown's books; "sad and beautiful" does not do justice to the very real, stark and poetic stories he tells. To simply call his work "Southern" or "Faulkneresque" oversimplifies the originality of his gifts as a writer. His is really a genre unto itself. If you haven't read any of Brown's work, Joe is a great place to start. Depressing as hell, sure, but, like a great sad song (Mark Lanegan, anyone?), tanscendently moving, indelibly affecting and ultimately uplifing th...more
This was a difficult book to read. It was beyond sad how most of the characters in it lived. The majority of them were not looking to rise above their squalid circumstances since there didn't seem to be any hope of them doing so for one reason or another, their problems beyond their control due to things such as alcoholism, despair, lack of education, and family history.

But the fact is, all the ugliness in this book was made nearly beautiful by the simple and elegant prose that turned mud, puke...more
Amazing Writing, Frustrating Story!

I will read this book again. Someday. The writing is beautiful and descriptive, the characters are raw and real, but right now I am reeling from the ending! summarizes Joe in this way: "Nearing fifty, Joe Ransom won't slow down....But all the fast living in Mississippi won't fill the hunger Joe can't name. At fifteen, Gary Jones is already slipping through the cracks. Part of a hopeless, homeless wandering family, he's desperate for a way out. He find...more
Garth Mailman
A book by one of my two favourite authors, Larry Brown; Larry Watson being the second. Larry Brown writes from working class experience, he served years as a fireman. There are no good guys or happy families in this book. Not Joe Ransom who buys stamps at the Post Office he doesn’t need just so he can see his ex-wife who works there. Certainly not Gary Jone’s family whose alcoholic father wastes money his family of five needs for food on Old Crow Whiskey. Joe at least has a roof over his head an...more
Donna Everhart
I really, make that REALLY liked this book. Larry Brown's Joe Ransom is captured as a hard edged, ex-convict who drinks, (and drives!!), smokes way too much, is his own man, who doesn't like to be told what to do. A man's man is the way I saw him. The way Brown writes the story is almost like a series of little vignettes, but if you keep going (and you can't help but turn the pages) you'll see how it all ties together. There are some incidents that I think could have been excluded - where Joe ge...more
Angi Hurst
I flew through this book. I couldn't stop reading. I missed important details because I couldn't freaking wait to read the next part. Larry Brown's character development is spectacular. I couldn't believe how much I hated Wade as I was reading it, and how much I loved Gary and Joe. I was getting really close to the end, and I actually started getting worried because I thought that there was no way he was going to be able wrap the story up so that I felt satisfied by the end...there was so much g...more
One of the greatest joys in an avid reader's life is the discovery of a ridiculously great book unknown to that reader. An even greater joy is discovering a fantastic author you've never read. Such is the case with "Joe" and Larry Brown. I'm going to read everything he published now, this book kicked me in the teeth with it's stark beauty.

Holy shit, how did I not know about Larry Brown? I can't figure out how I missed him entirely.
"Joe" was the first Larry Brown novel I picked up. I was inspired to do so by watching the movie of the same name. I enjoyed the movie, but as is often the case the book was a whole new experience. Everything I loved about the movie, the book dished out ten fold. This book inspired me to pick up "Fay" next which serves as somewhat of a sequel to "Joe" in the fact that the character Fay appears in "Joe." Only read this if you want to read the rest of Larry Brown's books. I find it hard to imagine...more
A novel of the poor of the American South. These people is dart po'! Two primary characters are Joe and Gary. Joe is a divorced hard drinker who makes his living by gambling and poisoning trees for a large lumber company. He is a moral man, but given to sudden, dangerous impulses which at times land him in jail. His good nature is clearest in his relations with Gary, whom he adopts almost as a son. Gary is an extremely impoverished teenager who is not even sure how old he is. He lives in a rundo...more
Neil White
I'd never heard of Larry Brown until my dad loaned me this. He compared it to the likes of William Faulkner and Cormac McCarthy in terms of his Southern "grit lit" chops. Hefty comparisons, but I set my expectations low. He exceeded them by a country mile and then some. Is Brown as good as Faulkner or McCarthy? I'd hesitate to give it a firm "yes", but does he deserve to be mentioned in the same conversation? Absolutely. A lot of people try to imitate the giants, but few succeed as well as Brown...more
Kevin Catalano
"And George, the blind brother, sat in a straightback wooden chair with the 9MM in his hand and a dead woman at his feet, whose blood had come out of her body and made a dark rug on the floor around her. He held the pistol in one hand and a glass of something in the other. His hair was white, shaggy, disordered. The radio played country tunes softly.
"He said one word: 'Joe?'
"But his visitor had no wish to be verified, and he did not answer. He let himself out as quietly as he had let himself in...more
Erik Simon
This guy sure died too young. I love his work, and this novel is my favorite of his. When I was an undergrad, on my annual pilgrimmage to Faulkner's house, I looked Larry Brown up and met him at the bar. He was very friendly. When I asked him to recommend a writer no one had heard of yet, he told me about Cormac McCarthy, and this before ALL THE PRETTY HORSES. Larry said, "If that guy doesn't win the Nobel, the award ain't worth shit." I concur. And I was glad he tipped me off on the author of B...more
simple straightforward prose about some people in the rural south. "the boy didn't know where he and his family were, other than one name: mississippi." story begins w/a few of them walking "the heat was coming now through the thin soles of their shoes."

if i had to liken it to another, steinbeck, harry crews.

one of the characters, gary jones, wants a way out of the life he's come to know. gary, unlike his old man, is willing to work. he meets up w/joe and together life happens to them.

good stor...more
Kathy Worrell
From the book cover:

Joe Ransom is a hard-drinking ex-con pushing fifty who just won't slow down--not in his pickup, not with a gun, and certainly not with women. Gary Jones estimates his own age to be about fifteen. Born luckless, he is the son of a hopeless, homeless wandering family, and he's desperate for a way out. When their paths cross, Joe offers him a chance just as his own chances have dwindled to almost nothing. Together they follow a twisting map to redemption--or ruin."

From page on...more
Greg Clayton
I read this book for a class in college a few years ago, I was looking through my books and picked this gem up again to give it a proper leisurely read. Having grown up on Mississippi I knew the types of characters to expect from a novel based in my home state. This is a classic piece of Southern literature that I hope will stay around for a long long time. I know it will be passed to my children to read.
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What a writer could learn from this magnificent book 3 14 Jul 20, 2013 09:56AM  
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Librarian Note: There is more than one author in the GoodReads database with this name. See this thread for more information.

Larry Brown was an American writer who was born and lived in Oxford, Mississippi. Brown wrote fiction and nonfiction. He graduated from high school in Oxford but did not go to college. Many years later, he took a creative writing class from the Mississippi novelist Ellen Dou...more
More about Larry Brown...
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“The road lay long and black ahead of them and the heat was coming now through the thin soles of their shoes. There were young beans pushing up from the dry brown fields, tiny rows of green sprigs that stretched away in the distance.” 3 likes
“The boy didn't know where he and his family were, other than one name: Mississippi.” 3 likes
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