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Joe

4.15  ·  Rating Details ·  2,147 Ratings  ·  187 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 estimate
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Paperback, 368 pages
Published September 30th 2003 by Algonquin Books (first published 1980)
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Judy Vasseur
Aug 27, 2008 Judy Vasseur rated it it was amazing
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
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Rebecca McNutt
Jan 18, 2017 Rebecca McNutt rated it it was amazing
I think Joe is going to become a classic as time goes on for many reasons, and its striking imagery, human honesty and relatable plot make it one of the best I've read so far this year.
Horace Derwent
Apr 28, 2016 Horace Derwent rated it it was amazing
Yes, Larry Brown at his best, and the best book of 1991(awarded by Publisher's Weekly and National Book Association)

The author no more told us a simple story about simple people with a matter of how good defeats evil

That man and that boy, them meets at a cross-road somewhere in Deep South. He sees a young he when he sees him, and he's trudging his rut, and he ain't wanna see him doin' this. Both of them cud be saved by each other, and both of them cud get to Hell if one of them two goes awry. Bu
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Jamie
Apr 23, 2014 Jamie rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: the-dirty-south
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.
Lou
May 26, 2012 Lou rated it really liked it
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
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Robert
Jul 18, 2014 Robert rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
You might be a redneck if you read this novel, and you feel as though you’ve met a few of your kin. You might be a redneck if you read between these pages, and you feel like you’re coming home. You might be a redneck if words like y’all and fixin’ to flow freely from your lips. You might be a redneck if JOE makes you feel all warm and fuzzy inside. You might be a redneck if you’re building relations with your second cousin on your mama’s side. You might be a redneck if you whistle between the ga ...more
Robert Blumenthal
Sep 01, 2016 Robert Blumenthal rated it it was amazing
This is a book of Southern literature. I have seen many comparisons between this author and William Faulkner. I have read but a short story of Faulkner's, so I am not that aware of his writing. This book is a gritty, character-driven story of an alcoholic ex-con and the 15-year old boy he somewhat takes under his wing. The boy is living with a total bastard of a father, also an alcoholic, along with his mother and two sisters in a decrepit, abandoned shack in the woods of Mississippi. He meets J ...more
Shaun
Feb 19, 2014 Shaun rated it really liked it
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
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Sean
Jul 24, 2007 Sean rated it liked it
Southern-fried gothic. Grab a bourbon, put your car up on blocks, get depressed, and read this book. Not bad 'tall.
Jim Marshall
Oct 28, 2014 Jim Marshall rated it it was amazing
I want to recommend this book, but I’m not sure of the language I can use to praise it or of the audience I could praise it to. It is a dark, violent, painful book centered on poor, white, trailer-dwelling people in contemporary, rural Mississippi. One of the main characters, Gary, is fifteen years old and has to be taught how to brush his teeth by a whore who has been bought for him by Joe, other main character, who makes a living by driving a team of black men to poison first growth scrub tree ...more
Beverly
Jun 21, 2007 Beverly rated it it was amazing
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
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Millard Johnson
Aug 22, 2011 Millard Johnson rated it it was amazing
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
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Mitch Duckworth
Jun 27, 2013 Mitch Duckworth rated it it was amazing
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
bjartur of summerhouses
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
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Rick
Nov 07, 2012 Rick rated it really liked it
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
James
Aug 28, 2009 James rated it really liked it
Wow.

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,
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David
Nov 05, 2008 David rated it it was amazing
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
Larry Bassett
A book about a sorry bunch

I listen to this as an audible book. I am not sure what to say about Joe and his world of white trash. It is a foreign world to me but Larry Brown presents at convincingly in his writing.
Bryant
Apr 19, 2014 Bryant rated it liked it
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
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Kirk Smith
Feb 16, 2014 Kirk Smith rated it really liked it
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
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Josh
Jul 07, 2012 Josh rated it it was amazing
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
Roxy Rowe
May 18, 2017 Roxy Rowe rated it really liked it
Brown's depiction of a dirt-poor family in rural Mississippi is Faulkner-ish, dark and deeply sad, and around every corner was another hellish situation that could only be borne by beer and whiskey.
Albert
May 19, 2017 Albert rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: reviewed
I began my adventures with Larry Brown with his novel Father and Son. It was a stellar beginning to our relationship. Father and Son was raw and shocking and gritty. I have since read Dirty Work, which was quite good, and a collection of short stories. I have long looked forward to his novel, Joe. I found it quite good. Larry Brown creates vivid characters, some of which you like even though you know you probably shouldn’t, and some you love to hate. Joe Ransom is rough around the edges, a funct ...more
B. R. Reed
Nov 26, 2016 B. R. Reed rated it it was amazing
I wasn't sure whether I'd like this book. I did, I liked it very much. Who is Joe? Joe Ransom is a 43 yr old good ol boy who lives and works just south of Oxford, MS. He drinks, gambles and chases women but he also works, he makes his own way in the world. Joe is not gonna have a 401(k) or a health care plan, and he's not gonna be in church on Sunday morning. He makes a little extra money gambling and he's a bookie or collects for one. He also does contract work for Weyerhaeuser by "deadnin timb ...more
Donna Everhart
Mar 14, 2013 Donna Everhart rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Jim
May 22, 2014 Jim rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Laura
Aug 31, 2013 Laura rated it really liked it
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!

Amazon.com 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
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Donna
Apr 11, 2014 Donna rated it really liked it
Shelves: sad-books, fiction
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
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Garth Mailman
Aug 22, 2013 Garth Mailman rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Charles
May 31, 2015 Charles rated it really liked it
Shelves: read-in-2015

I don't know if it's a fact or I just imagine it to be real and I don't know if it matters if it is real, but my two Larry Browns read like he reassembled the same story elements to write two novels. I read fifty pages and thought that part of Joe was just like a similar element of Catfish. For example, Gary is very like Jimmy. Jimmy's family is just like Gary's. Jimmys sister runs off, so does Gary's. There is a nameless referenced character that roams the back roads of Catfish collecting disc
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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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“The boy didn't know where he and his family were, other than one name: Mississippi.” 7 likes
“Couldn’t get no closer and couldn’t get no further away.” 5 likes
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