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4.17  ·  Rating details ·  2,391 Ratings  ·  218 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
Paperback, 352 pages
Published September 30th 2003 by Algonquin Books (first published 1980)
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Jul 05, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Sociologist could use Larry Brown's "Joe" as a Southeastern study journal. Larry knew these people, heart and soul. The goodness of heart in some and the evil souls of others. "Joe" tells a gripping story.

You would not want Joe in your family. He is only gonna let you down.
Would you want Joe as your friend? Good choice if you do. Through thick or thin, Joe is there for his friends. Doesn't matter your station in life, if you're Joe's friend then he'll celebrate the good times with you and he i
Rebecca McNutt
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.
Judy Vasseur
Aug 27, 2008 rated it it was amazing  ·  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
Horace Derwent
Apr 28, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Apr 23, 2014 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.
J.K. Grice
Oct 03, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: southern-writers
I can't recall how I stumbled upon southern writer Larry Brown, but I thank Christ I did. He's become one of my favorite authors of all time. He passed away several years ago, and I truly miss his work. JOE was the first Brown book that I read and I was immediately hooked. Larry Brown had such a feel for characters, place, conflict, pacing, and plot. He was a master.
May 26, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Jul 18, 2014 rated it really liked it
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
Oct 04, 2018 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
I must of read a different book than y'all did. The story was slow, with little happening, and an unsatisfying end. The characters were mostly uninteresting and underdeveloped, with occasional hints, and stereotypical: the men were all drunkards, and the women interesting mostly in companionship (or sex.) Male arguments were either resolved with guns, knives or fists. White trash.
Jim Marshall
Oct 28, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Robert Blumenthal
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
Feb 19, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Jun 21, 2007 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Jul 24, 2007 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Southern-fried gothic. Grab a bourbon, put your car up on blocks, get depressed, and read this book. Not bad 'tall.
Millard Johnson
Aug 22, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Apr 17, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: William Faulkner enthusiasts. David Goodis readers.
Recommended to Still by: Goodreads Friend Col
Shelves: tbr
Unforgettable masterpiece.
I might write more tomorrow but tonight I'm just not up to doing it justice.

Previous Notes:

November 12, 2013 – Shelved as: to-read

April 8, 2018 – Started Reading
April 8, 2018 – page 0
0.0% "My last and final unread Larry Brown novel."

April 8, 2018 – page 54

April 14, 2018 – page 106
30.11% "I've been caught up with current events for the past several days. Outrage daily intensifying, I need to return to the world ...Mississippi of my twenties."

April 14, 2018 – page 1
Mitch Duckworth
Jun 27, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Oct 29, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Nov 07, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Kirk Smith
Feb 16, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Aug 28, 2009 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition

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,
Nov 05, 2008 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Feb 11, 2012 rated it really liked it
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.
B. R. Reed
Nov 26, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites
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
James Aura
Aug 27, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
'Joe' was a memorable, tough, earthy tale, told by a author who had a remarkable handle on the human condition. So sorry we lost Larry Brown so soon. I probably will not watch the movie because somehow I doubt the cinematic version can do justice to the word-painting in this novel.
Donna Everhart
Mar 14, 2013 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
Aug 31, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Apr 11, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction, sad-books
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
Angi Hurst
Jul 27, 2007 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Jul 07, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
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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
“Couldn’t get no closer and couldn’t get no further away.” 9 likes
“The boy didn't know where he and his family were, other than one name: Mississippi.” 9 likes
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