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Big Ray

3.68  ·  Rating details ·  474 ratings  ·  100 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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Average rating 3.68  · 
Rating details
 ·  474 ratings  ·  100 reviews

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Jun 07, 2012 rated it really liked it
Shelves: fiction
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
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
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
Peter Derk
Aug 07, 2012 rated it it was amazing
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
Oct 03, 2012 rated it it was ok
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
Oct 18, 2012 rated it it was ok
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. ...more
Dec 09, 2012 rated it liked it
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
Nov 11, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: literary
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
Leigh Newman
Oct 10, 2012 rated it really liked it

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
Melanie Page
Apr 12, 2012 rated it it was amazing
“Having a dead father is distracting.”

Big Ray: the morbidly obese father whom you experience like the first big hill of a roller coaster. Of course, going up the hill it’s not so bad and you wonder why everyone else feels apprehension; you just don’t get it. Then, when things get scary, it happens fast and you’re not ready because you felt so superior in the first place. Narrator Daniel Todd Carrier learns of his father’s death and processes the relationship with the man everyone called “Big” Ra
Sam Still Reading
Mar 12, 2013 rated it really liked it
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
Sep 12, 2012 rated it it was amazing
"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
Sep 27, 2012 rated it it was amazing
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
Nov 11, 2012 rated it it was amazing
"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
Patricia Murphy
Apr 06, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: novels
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
Diane S ☔
Dec 20, 2012 rated it liked it
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
Jul 05, 2012 rated it really liked it
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.
Feb 27, 2013 rated it did not like it
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!
John Pappas
Oct 06, 2013 rated it really liked it
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.
May 08, 2015 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is a very quick read, it only took me a couple of hours to finish. The book is written in an interesting format, just snippets of thoughts and memories of the narrarator about his newly deceased father. A bit sad, but to my mind believe able.
Michael Seidlinger
Sep 06, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Jesus this book is amazing.

Everything I do now, I do after having read this book.
Linda Franklin
Feb 26, 2021 rated it it was amazing
Sometimes I really really like a book for the content, and sometimes for the writing style. Having just read the Ben Hecht book I was ready for something as interestingly written and as direct as that. Michael Kimball's BIG RAY totally satisfied me. I won't mention the name of the icky pssillanimous (sp?) book I tried to read in between. No no, you can't make me.
Kimball hasd "narrated in more than 500 short" entries the feelings and memories of a son upon finding that his father has died. This
Michael B Tager
Jul 26, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Michael Kimball has an effortless way of connecting us with disturbing, unpleasant material in a beautiful, deeply personal way. His writing is simple, clean, conversational and evocative. He's a major talent and Big Ray is just another example of his mastery. While none of us want to be in this position--death, abuse, abandonment--many of us face it head on.

Thanks for taking us through the character's catharsis. We're stronger for it.
Marthe Bozart
Jun 27, 2017 rated it it was ok
This wasn't a badly written book, or a bad plot, but it seems to me the plot was neverending, there was no conclusion or message. Not that that is necessary but it feels like I missed something between the lines. This story felt like it was emotionally cleansing to write, but as a reader, I don't feel very different after reading it. But maybe that was the point? ...more
Emma Smith-Stevens
Dec 25, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Michael Kimball writes about tragedy and loss head-on. No irony, no trickery, no temporary departures to higher ground. His novels tell the stories of endings and aftermaths and collateral damage—the stuff that happens after most novels end. He goes for it. His sentences are clean and luminous. He tells the truth. He is absolutely one of my favorite writers.
Louise Poole
Aug 05, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book was amazing. Easy to read in one sitting, seemingly simple thoughts but a powerful disturbing ending.
Nancy Stevenson
Apr 15, 2018 rated it liked it
Well written in short segments with lots of white space. Just very, very sad, and difficult to read because of its subject (about a mean, abusive father).
Dynah Thirst
Dec 10, 2016 rated it really liked it
Interesting format, concise while still
conveying complex emotions.
Bree T
Jan 22, 2013 rated it really liked it
Shelves: literary, arc
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
Full Stop
Jun 11, 2014 added it
Shelves: fall-2012

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
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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 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 Will Smash You.

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