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Dirty Work

4.18  ·  Rating details ·  1,344 Ratings  ·  128 Reviews
Dirty Work is the story of two men, strangers—one white, the other black. Both were born and raised in Mississippi. Both fought in Vietnam. Both were gravely wounded. Now, twenty-two years later, the two men lie in adjacent beds in a VA hospital.Over the course of a day and a night, Walter James and Braiden Chaney talk of memories, of passions, of fate.

With great vision,
Paperback, 247 pages
Published March 30th 2007 by Algonquin Books
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Diane Barnes
Apr 04, 2017 rated it it was amazing
This is the fourth Larry Brown work that I have read, and my favorite so far. It's not often that an author's first novel outshines his later work, but that's how I feel about this one. His book of short stories, Big Bad Love was wonderful, as were his later novels, Fay and Father and Son. But the emotion in this one was so raw, and his people so real, I felt like I knew them personally.

Two men, one black, one white, but with similar hard childhoods raised in poverty in rural Mississippi, spend
Jun 06, 2008 rated it it was amazing
This is one of those books that I use to size up other people. If you've read Dirty Work and you didn't love it, I wish you well but I doubt I want to know you. This was the first Larry Brown book that I ever read and, after re-reading it, it is still as powerful and haunting the second time around.

The novel focuses on two Vietnam veterans in the VA hospital two decades after the war has ended. Braiden, a black quadraplegic, has spent this entire time in the hospital and his imagination is his
Jun 04, 2017 rated it it was amazing
A haunting book written by the late Larry Brown who dedicated it ," To Daddy, who knew what war did to men. " My Southern Lit club occasionally reads some substantially tough to read and emotionally draining ( at least for me ) books. This one which takes place in the span of a few days in a Mississippi VA hospital and covers the traded stories and histories of two Vietnam Vets who have both suffered great losses in combat, is among the most difficult and heartbreaking one yet. Still the ending ...more
Apr 26, 2017 rated it really liked it
Raw and real. Fascinating how the two men cope with the hand they were dealt. The book reads like a therapy session. The best closing lines.
Mar 25, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favourites
Walter & Beth with their web of scars I'll not soon forget. Braiden dreaming of lions, crocs and Jesus. Diva ghosting in and out like an angel.

This is one of those novels that gets you at the end in a way you don't expect.

Maybe because the dialogue moves so fast but sinks in Mississippi slow and languid right up until that knife blow: Matt Monroe'd one inch from the heart and left hurting for these characters.

Not just the war-torn ones but the others as well all wanting to come home from so
Aug 17, 2014 rated it really liked it
This is an unusual format that, at times, reads like separate monologues. It reminded me a little of Stephen King's Delores Claiborne, not the story itself, but the mode of storytelling.

The tragic tale of two American vets who have both been scarred emotionally and physically, Dirty Work is brutally honest, yet beautifully written. At the end of the edition I read, there is an interview with Brown, who has since passed away. He is speaking to some of his critics, and I think the excerpt below su
Full review to follow.
gut wrenching and tragic, two vietnam vets (usa vets) one white one black, talk back and forth in their sick beds, being wounded. a lit premise that perhaps has been done too many times, and sadly, never enough, as we keep making these situations over and over and over again. if in some twisted way one thinks war and violence is justified for the greater good, this book could disabuse one of that notion. the treasures we spend, we could spend in a different way?
dirty work has been compared, and
Judy Vasseur
Sep 03, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Vietnam Vets, epileptics, people who have been mauled by dogs

For background music I recommend the song Over Jordan by Papa M.

Larry Brown explained during a talk given at the Fifth Biennial Conference on Southern Literature, "One of the questions about human nature that interests me most is how people bear up under monstrous calamity..."

Here he writes with gut wrenching tenderness about broken bodies and how gaps of loneliness are cauterized with fantasy, faith, beer, weed, and fellow broken travelers marching down the road to eternity.

Over arching is a va
J.K. Grice
Oct 03, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: southern-writers
This a bit more of a psychological character study from Larry Brown. But as always, the writing and story are just stellar. DIRTY WORK is a winner.
Apr 26, 2017 rated it really liked it
Sad and well written. Personality dominates. Others have said it better than I could.

The more modern the war, the more survivors live with worse and worse physical handicaps.

Oct 17, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Una historia conmovedora y muy humana que pone el foco en la trágica amistad de dos almas rotas, atadas de por vida a cicatrices emocionales y físicas, larvadas por la brutalidad del conflicto bélico.

Un alegato antibélico a su vez, pero despojado de sermón político y sorprendentemente humanista.

El relato de las atrocidades sufridas por dos almas desquiciadas, desahuciadas de la vida civil, que escupen en cada página verdades imposibles de deglutir y que, aún así, sacan pecho en todo momento pa
Nov 11, 2008 rated it it was amazing
powerful, powerful shit. The world has been granite-hard on us poor for eternity, and the crisp descriptive dialect in this short novel nails it.
Nick Dundee
Apr 05, 2017 rated it it was amazing
"He said Jesus loves you. I shut my eyes because I knew better than that shit. I knew that somewhere Jesus wept."

Dirty Work was the first novel written by Larry Brown and the first (of many) of his works I plan to read. Within the opening pages I was drawn deeply into the world of two Mississippi men, one white, the other black, both veterans of Vietnam and both having been severely wounded in the war.

The story takes place in a single day and night over two decades after the war. The men share
Daniel Villines
Jul 29, 2012 rated it liked it
I guess that stories about the personal after-effects of the Vietnam War are not my thing, at least not this type of story. Maybe it's because stories such as Dirty Work require the reader to develop deep sympathetic feelings for the main characters. In fact, the impact of the ending of Dirty Work will be proportional to the sympathy felt for the two main characters and every part of this story is geared towards developing those sympathetic feelings.

From my perspective, a soldier that comes home
Carol Feldman
Excellent. Thank you Diane. I wouldn't have ever picked this up if I hadn't seen your review.
Asghar Abbas
Feb 04, 2018 rated it it was amazing

Slowly, slowly I am starting to fall in love with Larry Brown's writing again. This is a good start. And Vikings.

God, I want nothing and miss everything.
B. R. Reed
Apr 16, 2017 rated it really liked it
Dirty Work (1989) was Larry Brown's first published novel and it is a good one. Two men from Mississippi who served their country during the Vietnam War in the 60s meet and converse in a VA hospital ward in the south (perhaps Memphis) in the 80s more than 20 yrs after their service. Both have been severely wounded. Braiden has nothing but nubs for limbs and has been in a hospital bed for 22 yrs. His mind is good, his heart even better. Walter has pretty much lost his face and there is probably a ...more
Bud Smith
Nov 28, 2015 rated it really liked it
Two Vietnam vets in a ward, many years after the war. One with no limbs. One with a blown apart face. They're unlikely friends, placed next to each other on a long night of getting wasted, smoking weed, telling literal war stories and stories from their sorrowful past of growing up poor and without options in rural Mississippi.
The writing is occasionally transcendent but in the same way you might be lifted off a barstool and taken on a flight around the ceiling of a tavern.
Dirty Work is a book
Jan 22, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites
Difficult to find words to express how much this short novel moved me...

Larry Brown has a way with his writing that takes you right under the skin of his characters. They are so vivid and believable. Dirty Work's two main protagonists are both physically and mentally scarred Vietnam veterans who share adjoining beds in a VA hospital 22 years after their war. Both Mississippians, limbless Braiden is black and faceless Walter is white. Both are from poor and troubled backgrounds. They find rare so
Nov 23, 2007 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: fiction
i concur with my friend, who said it more succinctly than i ever could, "if it doesn't make you cry, then you're not human." without question, one of the most powerful and evocative anti-war novels ever written.
* * * con el redondeo jugando a su favor. Normalita.
Feb 25, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: reviewed
I recently read two other books on the brutal impact of war on the individual soldier, Redeployment by Phil Klay and a reread of All Quiet on the Western Front by Erich Maria Remarque. Dirty Work came much closer than Redeployment to leaving me with the frustration and sense of inevitability that All Quiet on the Western Front produced on both reads. Dirty Work is the story of two Vietnam vets, one black and one white, who come together in a Vet medical facility 22 years after the war. Braiden C ...more
Jul 11, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Great book but not for everyone. This is a horror story told softly. What would it be like to be trapped in a VA hospital with all your limbs missing, year after year? Larry Brown was a great writer.
Jul 04, 2017 rated it really liked it
Wow... this was a tough read for me, but authentic and felt true to the bone. I am recommending it to some friends who have an appreciation for our veterans and what they do for us. Ultimately this is a sad story, be forewarned.
Dec 14, 2015 rated it really liked it
This is the first novel I've read by the late Larry Brown after being introduced to him when I recently watched the indie film Joe, based upon his novel of the same name. A fantastic low-key film featuring a memorably chilling performance by homeless non-actor Gary Poulter who died shortly after the film wrapped. If Joe was a diluted version of Brown's literary voice, I just needed the real thing and Dirty Work is what I landed on.

This is a very fast read. Kind of like a drive-thru Faulkner, or
Eric Roy
Jan 17, 2014 rated it really liked it
The question is, why didn't I give this book FIVE stars? Well, after reading this book again (second time), I struggled a little bit with the ending. Won't give you any spoilers here, but I will say that Walter's last seizure and what happens because of it, seems a little far-fetched. Not to mention what he does with Diva, "given his devotion to Beth", as another reviewer puts it. The irony here is this is where Larry Brown's most vivid and lyrical writing comes into play.
That said, this is an
Nelson Maddaloni
Apr 04, 2016 rated it really liked it
While this book's ending feels a little predictable, the ride there was pretty good. Taking place over such a short amount of time, the novel is a riff on "One Flew Over the Cukoo's Nest" and a novel exploring the waste of war, as the description reads, but it's true. It's an exploration of the Vietnam War 22 years after the fact in a VA Hospital. Still, it's a fantastic read and shows promise for future Larry Brown books that I might invest in. I'm looking forward to seeing how his style evolve ...more
Nov 24, 2008 rated it it was amazing
This is definitely an antiwar novel. It doesn't take long to know things will not turn out well. Over the course of a night and a day in a veterans hospital, Walter and Braiden meet and spend time talking about what they've gone through. It is impossible for them not to become bound to each other, simply because of their shared war experience. They are Vietnam vets; Braiden has been in the hospital a long time, and Walter ends up in the bed next to him. The narrative alternates between Braiden's ...more
Dec 08, 2012 rated it really liked it
This book hauls ass. Through the course of one evening in a veteran's hospital, the stories of two broken lives are laid out and laid to rest. The story has strength through a peculiar symmetry. One soldier is black, the other white, both raised poor in the south. One man has had his face taken from him, the other his arms and legs. One man's monologue seems centered around resolution and gaining an understanding of his life's narrative. The other man's language suggests a desire for release and ...more
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On the Southern L...: * Moderator's Choice - April 2017 - DIRTY WORK by Larry Brown 27 47 Apr 19, 2017 05:52AM  
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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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“We know You love us. We love You, too. I mean, six, seven thousand years from now . . . won't make no difference, will it? Everybody gonna be so mixed up by then that far in the future that they all gonna be the same color by then, ain't they?” 9 likes
“I told him. We got a library here. Got plenty of good books, too. -Larry Brown, Dirty Work” 5 likes
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