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On Fire: A Personal Account of Life and Death and Choices

4.05  ·  Rating Details ·  433 Ratings  ·  31 Reviews
On January 6, 1990, after seventeen years on the job, award-winning novelist Larry Brown quit the Oxford, Mississippi, Fire Department. With three published books to his credit and a fourth nearly finished, he made the risky decision to try life as a full-time writer. On Fire, his first work of nonfiction, looks back on his life as a full-time firefighter. Unflinching acco ...more
Hardcover, 192 pages
Published January 1st 1994 by Algonquin Books
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(showing 1-30)
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Apr 21, 2012 Ron rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: nonfiction
I did not know of Larry Brown until I saw the film "Big Bad Love," based on one of his stories. I wasn't crazy about the film but was fascinated by the imagination it emerged from, and gave one of his books a try. For starters, I read his memoir "On Fire," about his years as an Oxford, Mississippi, fireman. I thought it would be about fighting fires, responding to emergencies, and what goes on in the firehouse in between. I expected some reflection on the world of firemen, which I understand to ...more
Dave Newman
May 17, 2016 Dave Newman rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I was drinking with Scott Silsbe, a great poet, and we were talking about Larry Brown, who we both love. It was late and the rest of the room was talking about something else but Scottie and I wanted to talk about books. I was drunk. I think Scott was drunk. I said, "My least favorite Larry Brown book is On Fire." I'd read it years ago and liked it but thought it too meandering, too talkie about dogs that don't know how to get laid. What Scottie must have heard, with his beer-buzzed ears, was, " ...more
Jan 22, 2011 Paul rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites
I love Larry Brown's writing. So simple, yet so affecting and evocative. This collection of autobiographical tales was written as a reflection on the time in his life from the '70s to the early 90s as an Oxford Fire Department member in Mississippi. That alone would be good enough - his stories tell of the unique esprit de corps in the fire station and of the many harrowing emergencies they would attend. But this book is more than just this. Brown writes of what that life was like as a colleague ...more
May 06, 2013 Fred rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Having read several of Brown's books, I am a big fan. His astute ear for dialog alone makes his writing altogether enjoyable. Mix this talent with his clever turn of phrase and his powerful ability to create compelling scenes---what you get is a graceful, engrossing, sometimes disturbing work. The kind of writing that, once found, you avidly search for as your next read.
In fact, I've read many not-so-great books in an effort to find the quality of writing Brown offers.
Unfortunately, I didn't fin
Josh Medsker
Jan 26, 2008 Josh Medsker rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Can it be? Is he better at non-fiction than he is at fiction? It's a toss-up. His non-fiction and his novels make me weep. What a great writer. Man.
Judy Vasseur
Sep 03, 2008 Judy Vasseur rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Firefighters, Rescue Workers, Rubberneckers
Unpretentious and finely crafted like Amish furniture and as satisfying as meat and potatoes, On Fire is structured like a journal and opens the door on Larry Brown's personal livelihood as a firefighter, husband, father, hunter and writer in Mississippi.

If you love his novels, you'll get the pleasure of seeing where some of his inspiration arises from including first hand accounts of cruising a pick-up through the gloam ( the hour after sunset and before total darkness ) beer at the ready and j
Jul 24, 2014 Tom rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
This happened to be on my shelf, and I'm going through a phase in which I want to read books that I've had for a while and probably only need to read once so I can then get rid of them. While I figure I probably won't read this again, I'm glad I read it once.

Larry Brown's "day job" while he was honing his craft was as a firefighter in Oxford, Mississippi, a town I can picture easily enough, having been there a few times. I enjoyed Brown's short stories, and when I came across this book at a libr
Garth Mailman
Larry Brown’s novels are salt of the earth tales of the common man written with great sympathy and care for his subjects and remarkable realism. In writing about himself he is no less candid revealing a red-necked good ole boy who smokes, drinks and drives, and keeps his wife waiting while he goes out with the boys. He enjoys hunting and fishing and appears to have a careless accident prone streak. As a fireman he is equally dismissive of the dumb things people do and laughs at the discomfort of ...more
Nov 29, 2008 Eric_W rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: biography-memoir
Larry Brown, a Mississippi fireman, wrote these recollections which include some heart-warming stories in addition to the mind-numbingly tragic ones. In one case, his company had been called to a trailer fire. The trailer was half-destroyed when they arrived — “They always are”, — but fortunately no one was home. They discovered puppy on the floor with all the classic signs of death: eyes glazed over and bowels evacuated. They carried him out, and one of the firemen remarked how they had all the ...more
Kyle Mcavoy
Nov 05, 2014 Kyle Mcavoy rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
On Fire, what a book, its not often you get to experience the fire service in such vivid detail, but Larry Brown was perfect in doing that. In books like Report from Engine Co. 82, it feels like your right beside Dennis Smith, crawling through a smoke filled apartment building with a heavy hose. In On Fire, I felt I was Brown; Smashing windows for ventilation, playing with his dog, helping a women trapped in a car accident, getting drunk with some of the guys from my shift, and that really stood ...more
Caroline Mosley
On Fire is a non-fiction book about a firefighter from Mississippi. He writes mostly about his life as a firefighter and how it has shaped him. However he also talks about very miscellaneous things such as, his family, friends, hunting and so forth. Larry Brown writes in a very conversational tone which is a refreshing change from certain uptight, unnecessarily dense literature. Although this book may seem like every page is action packed, it is not. Brown does not always tell stories about his ...more
Oct 31, 2013 Richard rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I yet to come across a piece of work of Larry's that I haven't liked, and this was no exception. I picked this one right now, as I'm studying memoir is school and this is his memoirs of his times as a firefighter in Oxford, Mississippi. As with his fiction it is a mixture of dark humour and heartbreak. He writes with a masculine, but not insensitive voice, and draws you into that world and the culture that surrounds the firefighter. This one is recommended for fans of memoir, contemporary Southe ...more
Feb 28, 2016 alsmilesalot rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I've read most of Larry Brown's oeuvre and generally rave, I'm a fan of his direct style (which is present in this collection in spades); I had high hopes but, this isn't my favorite; to me, it doesn't hang together as well as I would have hoped and doesn't have the depth of his fiction but I do feel that it gave me a new little insight into what's behind his other stories. Even with those limitations, I can't give it lower than a 4.
Guy Salvidge
This is a very quick read, maybe two hours' worth. What it is is a memoir about Brown's time as a firefighter in Oxford, Mississippi, in the seventies and eighties. You can tell that he knows what he's talking about and much of this is quite evocative, but the volume is a tad slight overall, I suppose.
Apr 06, 2009 AGamble rated it really liked it
Any book by Larry Brown is certain to be a damn fine read, and this was no exception, especially since it was dedicated to his dog. These vignettes of the life of a Oxford (Mississippi, that is) firefighter leaving behind his chosen occupation for a literary life are written very well. A pleasure to read.
Jan 10, 2015 Bjlevek rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
An incredibly enlightening and poetic look at the life of a fire fighter. The blazing heat of a voice that took ten years of writing/preparation and loads of rejection slips to finally gain acceptance.
Aug 14, 2008 Doug rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites, 2008-books
I finished the Hellboy book this morning, and now I'll work on this one. I read it before when I was in college. It's a great book about small town life. One of those books that makes you want to barbeque with your neighbors and dream of simpler times. Kind of perfect for independence day.
Dec 09, 2014 Kristen rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Randomly picked up this 20-year-old memoir about Larry Brown's years as a firefighter in Oxford, Mississippi, which was less about firefighting and more about life. Quick read, with great storytelling.
Catherine Mincy
Oct 22, 2014 Catherine Mincy rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I read Billy Ray's Farm first, which covers later parts of Brown's life and career. It's interesting to read this as a follow-up and see how his writing style had progressed. One of my very favorite southern lit writers.
All the dead things made me want to stop reading. As well as the drinking and the good-old-boy network of firefighting Southerners. However, I kept reading, wanting to know--what? I'm not sure. But he's a good writer.
Jun 11, 2013 Jason rated it it was amazing
Larry Brown is a national treasure. This is his honest account of a firefighter turned writer,
how only he could write it.
Jan 04, 2008 Aaron rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Prior to writing full time Larry Brown was a firefighter. This is a collection of essays and true stories from his firefighting days and is a great read.
Joe Zillmer
Dec 27, 2011 Joe Zillmer rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: gotta-get-it
Brown gets you to feel; that alone is enough without the tasty words, evocative visualizations and sympathy pains. Just get it and read it.
Erik rated it it was amazing
Dec 12, 2007
Thedrevlow rated it it was amazing
Mar 07, 2011
Max Evry
Max Evry rated it it was amazing
Mar 30, 2015
Boone Jaxson
Boone Jaxson rated it really liked it
Jul 06, 2012
Robert rated it really liked it
Oct 24, 2007
Kevin rated it liked it
Nov 01, 2007
Jeff Baker
Jeff Baker rated it it was amazing
Apr 24, 2015
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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
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