Big Ray
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Big Ray

3.74 of 5 stars 3.74  ·  rating details  ·  259 ratings  ·  68 reviews
Big Ray’s temper and obesity define him. When Big Ray dies, his son feels mostly relief, dismissing his other emotions. Yet years later, the adult son must reckon with the outsized presence of his father’s memory. This stunning novel, narrated in more than five hundred brief entries, moves between past and present, between his father’s death and his life, between an abusiv...more
Hardcover, 192 pages
Published September 4th 2012 by Bloomsbury USA (first published September 1st 2012)
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Greg
This is a novel about someone coming to terms with his father dying. I read it about a year ago, and never reviewed it. I liked it at the time, but couldn't bring myself to write a review for it. I'd recommend it.

What follows I'm putting in a spoiler. Reading about other peoples experiences with death and stuff is uncomfortable, what feels so important and unique is usually just some prattled cliches.

I have a hard time telling people about what I've been going through lately, but I have quite...more
Michael
A middle aged man is coming to terms with his father’s death and in fact his life. Big Ray is not a nice man; his size and his temper define him. So when he dies, Daniel is mostly relived but it is still the death of his father. “For most of my life I have been afraid of my father. After he died, I was afraid to be a person without a father, but I also felt relieved he was dead. Everything about my father seem complicated like that.”

Big Ray is Daniel’s attempts to recount his father’s life, each...more
Lori
from author

Read 8/21/12
5 Stars - Highly Recommended / The Next Best Book
Pgs: 182
Publisher: Bloomsbury USA
Release Date: Sept 2012

In a completely unplanned Year of Grief in literature, I fall head over heels for Michael Kimball's Big Ray.

If Michael's books were record albums, I imagine they'd sound like Hayden with a dash of Midlake and a big ole heap of Great Lake Swimmers - that lo-fi, slow indie rock sound - sweetly depressing, all enveloping, emotionally charged music that somehow makes you fe...more
Peter Derk
Wow. Of course, wow.

"I'm awake and my father is dead. It's snowing and my father is dead. I'm hungry and my father is dead"

Whatever Michael Kimball chooses to explore, he does it right. He's an incredible writer and has a way of taking a story, boiling it down, and simplifying it without sacrificing any of the flavor.

His books have always stayed with me in a way that's difficult to describe. I tend to be short on memory for book plots and quotes, but I'm long on memory for how a book made me fee...more
Leigh Newman


The death of a parent is always complex, but it's even more so when a parent has been tough to forgive while living. In this tender, gorgeous novel, Michael Kimball explores how we try to understand even the most difficult family members. The book begins when 38-year-old Daniel goes home to clean out his deceased father's apartment. Big Ray has passed at home in his chair from an as-yet-undetermined illness related to his obesity. Through illuminating flashbacks, we learn about Big Ray's history...more
Jane
When a copy of Big Ray by Michael Kimball landed, quite unexpectedly, in my porch I didn’t think that it would be my kind of book at all. The title didn’t speak to me. The cover, though striking, didn’t draw me in. And the concept – a son’s meditation on the life and death of his father – didn’t appeal at all.

But I thought that I owed the book a chance, that I should at least take a look inside before letting it go. When I did, opening the pages and reading one of the five hundred entries that m...more
Allie
It was written in these small sections that got a bit gimmicky after a while. I realize that its supposed to be small thoughts in a stream of consciousness sort of thing here, but it started to read like a elementary schoolers' first foray into paragraphs.

there was good emotion and a few shocking bits that kept me engaged and capable of reading it in a day, but it definitely isn't sticking with me like I thought I would.

This is what I get for reading a Readers Digest suggestion. I wouldn't be...more
Melanie Page
Review forthcoming in JMWW!

http://jmww.150m.com/Kimball2Rev.html
Stephanie
This review originally appeared at www.readinasinglesitting.com.

My father is a small man. He is small in stature. He is small in emotions. And he is also small in achievement. My father’s greatest achievement is the PhD he obtained just after I was born. When I turned eighteen, he gave me a copy of his PhD. When I turned twenty-one, he asked when I would be obtaining a PhD of my own. My father is a scientist. He thinks in terms of formulae and processes. I am a writer. I think in terms of people...more
Scott
Interesting book about a man coming to terms with his father's death and finding that he feels quite happy about the whole thing. The chapters are full of separated sentences and paragraphs as opposed to full text, giving the book a a unique feel. Instead of being told a straight story, I felt like I was travelling through the author's thoughts. Tricky to pull off, but Kimball does it very well.

His father, Big Ray, was a 500+ pound man at the time of his death and apparently a poor father. There...more
Ellie
Daniel didn’t know his father was dead until a few days after it happened. His death brings mixed feelings; both relief and sadness. Weighing in at over 500 pounds, Big Ray was not an easy man to know. His temper defined Daniel’s childhood and distanced them as adults. As Daniel comes to terms with his loss, he recalls memories and anecdotes of his father, from birth to death.

Big Ray is made up of 500 entries, one for each pound both Daniel’s and Michael Kimball’s fathers weighed. Whilst the str...more
Sam Still Reading
Mar 16, 2013 Sam Still Reading rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: those looking for powerfully emotive novels
Recommended to Sam Still Reading by: ARC from publisher - thank you!
Big Ray may be a fairly short book at just 182 pages, but its contents certainly do punch well above its weight. Weight being one of the main topics covered in this reflective, semi-autobiographical book in 500 entries, matching the weight of Daniel’s father, Big Ray, when he passed away.

Each entry tells the reader a snippet of life with Big Ray. As the entries accumulate, my feelings became confused. Should I feel sorry for this large man with numerous medical problems whose activities were res...more
J.A.
"Michael Kimball’s father is dead, and so is Daniel Todd Carrier’s. Big Ray, Kimball’s fourth novel, uses hundreds of brief entries to artfully and empathetically explore the loss of a father—in particular, one who wasn’t very good; one who was, in fact, appalling. Begun as a memoir, Kimball turned it towards fiction because he wanted “more control over how it was told, a fiction writer’s prerogative,” and the result is a story clearly set in the truth of a writer who lived this relationship in...more
Patricia Murphy
Was strange shelving this under "fiction" since it is the story of his father, but he does say in a podcast interview with Brad Listi that this started as memoir and he realized he needed to add some fictional elements to it.

So, I know I related to this book for several reasons. First, I'm a poet so the sparse language and small blocks of text and use of anaphora appealed to me. I thought of Barthes Mourning Diary, or Susan Steinberg's Spectacle.

But also, I am writing a memoir about the death...more
Jackie
"I'm one of the people who survived." This is what Daniel, the narrator of this book, says about his father's obituary, but after years of abuse under that man's rule, his survival is multidimensional. His story is told in bits and pieces--sometimes in just one sentence, sometimes a couple of paragraphs. These short bites of story telling are packed with emotion and deeply poignant. Kimball infuses so much into his character, it's hard to believe that what he is writing is fiction (he does menti...more
Tracy
Big Ray hit me in the chest with emotion. Michael Kimball grapples with the confused emotions that come with tumultuous relationship with a parent. He takes all the horrible thoughts you may have had and pushes them to the next level, while trying to come to terms with what that parent has done.

Here is where I really cried: "Sometimes, I try to figure out how different I might have been if my father had been nicer to me. Would I try as hard as I do? Would I be happier than I am? Would I have a d...more
Diane S.
A son re-examines his life when his father dies. That his father was abusive, obese, over 500 lbs. and divorced fro his mother led to many conflicted feelings. Another novel told in short paragraphs, excerpts of father and son, their family, their lives together and apart. I seem to have a hard time with this type of structure. I take in quite a bit of information, I'm told what the characters are feeling, but I don't seem to have any feelings for the characters. Just not the kind of book for me...more
Jeff Jackson
Nov 01, 2012 Jeff Jackson rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: anyone who likes their formal experimentation with an emotional whallop
Hard to imagine any other novels that will be touted by Blake Butler in Vice *and* picked for Oprah's online book club. But as Adam Robinson says: "Michael Kimball does emotional immediacy better than any writer alive." And "Big Ray" happens to be his best novel to date. I recently interviewed Kimball about why he wrote the book in short fragments, his technique of composing from the unconscious, and his strategies for representing personal trauma and autobiography.
Philip Alexander
Michael Kimball is a master at capturing the fear, joy and internal longing of his characters and Big Ray is no exception. Kimball also experiments with structure, and his experimentation always pays off. The structure becomes part of the story's fabric, making it more compelling.

Big Ray is written using an almost journal / entry style; some of the entries are as short as a single sentence, some take up a few pages. The story is about the death of Ray Carrier, written from the perspective of Dan...more
Full Stop
Jun 11, 2014 Full Stop added it
Shelves: fall-2012
http://www.full-stop.net/2012/10/31/r...

Review by Nathan Goldman

To what degree are we the products of our progenitors — lives inseparably bound, fates and flaws tragically determined? This is among the questions at the heart of Big Ray, Michael Kimball’s subtly arresting fourth novel. In more than five hundred stark, aphoristic entries, unstuck in time, a middle-aged writer named Daniel tells the story of his father’s life, beginning with his death. This is not just Ray’s story, though, nor is i...more
William
The book was very well done but I did not enjoy it. I give stars for how I enjoy it not how well written. It was short or I would not have bothered to finish.
If it was at all autobiographical I feel sorry for the author. If not, then I hope he has an understanding family because "Big Ray" was about the worse slob and father imaginable. I found the book horrifying -- not funny or subtle in any way. I hope there are few people that bad, and any that are there don't have children. -- ugh!
Jeff Phillips
This is beautiful. I laughed hard in spots and then felt weird about laughing. But I'm also in the dead dad club. Kimball's pacing, short bursts, tone, repetition, make this like a sort of song. One where people don't start singing along, but they listen, and they think about things. They react with some odd personal, shameful reaction. Having a dead dad does change things. "It's lunchtime and my dad is dead. I get the mail and my dad is dead."
John Pappas
Delving down through memory and history, the appropriately named Dan Carrier attempts to discover and quantify the man who was his father, the recently deceased Big Ray of the title, in all of his burdensome oppressiveness, rage and abusiveness. A quiet musing book that suddenly explodes, throwing into sharp relief everything that came before. Simply written, but emotionally complex.
Zombieaps
From a craft perspective, the book is impressive. The way Kimball moves through time, linking his sections with common phrasing, and clever turns taught me a lot. The book's content is disturbing. In the mess of abuse, death, and failed love we meet a scarred narrator. Kimball successfully creates a frame around this narrator. First, he establishes him as a writer, but offers little details around his present life so that he is blank and primarily colored by his past experience. We have little h...more
Roxane
I wasn't able to really connect with this novel. I wanted more story, more depth of character from the narrator, less repetition of themes. I really didn't get it.
Michael Seidlinger
Jesus this book is amazing.

Everything I do now, I do after having read this book.
Bree T
Daniel’s father was known as Big Ray – a large man for most of his life, his temper was even larger. He was a forceful man, a man with presence and his presence coloured every aspect of Daniel’s life. As a child, he adored Big Ray – looked up to him and idolised him. As his childhood faded into adolescence and adulthood, Daniel came to have very different feelings for Big Ray.

When Daniel is entering his late thirties his sister informs him that Big Ray is dead, was probably dead for days before...more
Audrey
I was astounded by the level of truth and emotion that are in every page of Big Ray. Told in small recollections following the death of his father, a man gives the story of their relationship and the kind of man his father was. There’s as much heavy meaning in what’s not said as in what is, but it all feels very naturalistic, as if you’re speaking to a friend who is feigning to casually tell you about his father’s death, but is truly working through the complex emotions of anger, relief, grief,...more
Ryan Bradford
The book begins with the narrator finding out his father is dead and spends the rest of the book describing his relationship with his dad, Big Ray. But it's a complicated relationship. For the most part, Ray was a monster to the narrator in both the literal (his size) and figurative (his temper) senses, despite the narrator's constant attempts to win his father's approval.

The beauty is in the narrative. The story unfolds like a list, or confession. And a reluctant one at that. When things begin...more
Ethel Rohan
Perhaps I (re)read Dear Everybody and Big Ray too close together. While I loved the sparse, nuanced collage of sharp, short pieces that made up Dear Everybody I wanted Big Ray to be less fragmented and to go longer and deeper in each section--I missed fluidity here.

That said, Big Ray is brilliant in its emotional wallop and I found the ending especially powerful and expertly handled.

A brief excerpt from about three fifths of the way into the novel:

"Sometimes, I landed a punch on [my father's] ar...more
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Michael Kimball's third novel, DEAR EVERYBODY, will be published in the UK, US, and Canada this year. His first two novels, THE WAY THE FAMILY GOT AWAY (2000) and HOW MUCH OF US THERE WAS (2005), have both been translated (or are being translated) into many languages. He is also responsible for the art project--Michael Kimball Writes Your Life Story (on a postcard)--and the documentary film, I Wil...more
More about Michael Kimball...
Dear Everybody Us How Much of Us There Was The Way the Family Got Away Michael Kimball Writes Your Life Story (on a postcard)

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