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Group Reads: Post-1990 > Fay, by Larry Brown: Final Impressions, November 2014

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message 1: by Diane, "Miss Scarlett" (new) - rated it 4 stars

Diane Barnes | 4113 comments Mod
This is where we can discuss the book using spoilers.


LA Cantrell | 1312 comments Confession - I read "Fay" years ago and couldnt bring myself to go there again. Maybe watching the movie, "Joe," and reading Walker Percy, Wiley Cash, Daniel Woodrell, and Ron Rash's "The Cove" - all back to back within a month just wimped me out.

Brown was incredibly talented, but that horrific, miscarried fetus was like the moldy cherry on top of a nasty sundae of alcoholism, death, and hopelessness.

Am I the only person who finds his work too dark? No clue who wrote "Leaving Las Vegas" but that made the same impression. Needed to go roll my brain in cotton candy & sprinkles after. Sorry!


message 3: by Patricia (new)

Patricia Weil | 168 comments In response to your brave "confession," Leanne, I too found Fay too dark to read. Thanks for your message.


Larry Bassett | 0 comments This book has been on my TBR list for a couple of years now. In those years I have had some notable issues shared with this group about several other dark "grit" books. I continue to seek clarity based on a path I have chosen in the past to expose myself to this kind of book but now question.


message 5: by Diane, "Miss Scarlett" (new) - rated it 4 stars

Diane Barnes | 4113 comments Mod
This book had some dark components for sure, but Fay was able to rise above them all and "win" in the end. By win, I mean survive. Her greatest need was to find someone to take care of her, and when any man failed at that, she had no problem getting rid of him, by whatever means. She started out very kind and naive, but life taught her different. Unfortunately, there are people who live on the edge like the characters she ran into in Biloxi, and their lives are day to day survival tactics. Larry Brown seemed to understand these people in a very visceral way.


message 6: by Patricia (new)

Patricia Weil | 168 comments I have no doubt that what you say is true, D, about Brown's insight and artistry. I have a personal need at present not to go into dark lit. Alas, too many things in the world seem dark beyond dark right now.


message 7: by Diane, "Miss Scarlett" (new) - rated it 4 stars

Diane Barnes | 4113 comments Mod
I can totally understand that, Trish. I can't read Cormac McCarthy for that reason. Reading happens inside our head, which is why no two people can read the same book in the same way.


message 8: by Ned (new) - rated it 4 stars

Ned | 31 comments Must stare at abyss....can't stop...


Larry Bassett | 0 comments Ned wrote: "Must stare at abyss....can't stop..."

Must watch politics ... can't stop!

Same thing?


LA Cantrell | 1312 comments Patricia wrote: "In response to your brave "confession," Leanne, I too found Fay too dark to read. Thanks for your message."

Patricia, I'm now reading "I Am One of You Forever" by Fred Chappell, a North Carolina writer. So far, it is a happy and well written piece. If you need a brain-roll through cotton candy, this will do it! Enjoying myself immensely.


message 11: by Diane, "Miss Scarlett" (new) - rated it 4 stars

Diane Barnes | 4113 comments Mod
To Larry:
Yes! Same thing!


message 12: by Patricia (new)

Patricia Weil | 168 comments Glad to hear it, Larry! Love a good "brain-roll through cotton candy." Right now I'm letting Conroy's South of Main do that for me--though I know that this was not the purpose for which he intended the book. He's had a difficult life--guess we have to remember he has a family to support. This novel has its "dark," but it's so obviously contrived that it doesn't get to me. And to be fair to Conroy: it does have more than that--just not up to his potential.


Larry Bassett | 0 comments This is a three star book for me because in spite of the four star segments scattered throughout, there are regrettably plenty of two star sections that are barely tolerable, that I would edit out. Crass writing with dollops of brutal men and brutalized women fills too many of the pages.

The very short Epilogue suggests that Fay achieves what might be a higher level of sexualized life as an adult in New Orleans. But she has clearly not escaped her role as object and may not have even aspired beyond that status. Larry Brown does not display much concern for the people in his world or give much hope for their future.


Larry Bassett | 0 comments Sometimes literature serves to highlight human degradation. Sometimes that is necessary as part of the effort to resolve a problem. We must first see something as a problem so we will want to pursue a solution. When will we readily acknowledge that Fay's situation is a problem that demands society's priority attention? Larry Brown shows us a stark reality but does it suggest a course of action that motivates change?

Here is my review that is critical of Brown's description and lack of prescription: https://www.goodreads.com/review/show...


message 15: by Lawyer, "Moderator Emeritus" (new) - rated it 4 stars

Lawyer (goodreadscommm_sullivan) | 2699 comments Mod
Larry wrote: "Sometimes literature serves to highlight human degradation. Sometimes that is necessary as part of the effort to resolve a problem. We must first see something as a problem so we will want to pursu..."

Just a note to let you know I'll be reading your review when I finally get to Fay. I'm steadily making my way through The Confessions of Nat Turner. I'll be adding historical background notes to the initial impressions discussion topic for that read today. Fascinating contradictions have emerged since Styron wrote the novel.


message 16: by Diane, "Miss Scarlett" (new) - rated it 4 stars

Diane Barnes | 4113 comments Mod
Larry, where you and I differ in our approach to literature is that you think that every story should have some sort of solution for humanity or it's worthless, and I just think it should tell a good story in a well-written way. A lot of things in life don't have good endings, so books reflect that in a lot of cases. In your review, you say you believe that throwing money at a problem can fix it, and I disagree completely. Throwing money at an alcoholic or drug addict just enables them to buy more drugs. I saw the characters in Fay as trying to make things better for themselves in the best way they knew how in their circumstances, which sometimes meant prostitution or murder. And we have disagreed about this before, but to me, Fay was a very strong young woman. She did not hesitate to do what needed to be done to protect herself. In the epilogue, where it leads you to believe that she had taken to the streets to support herself, I could see Fay in 10 years time actually owning a house of prostitution herself, raking in the profits and becoming a profitable business woman in New Orleans. Because she would use what she knew best to her advantage.


Larry Bassett | 0 comments Diane wrote: "In the epilogue, where it leads you to believe that she had taken to the streets to support herself, I could see Fay in 10 years time actually owning a house of prostitution herself, raking in the profits and becoming a profitable business woman in New Orleans. Because she would use what she knew best to her advantage."

Well, Diane, I think we do agree that Fay was a "success" in her later life. But you think success is a good sign and I think it is a sign of trouble for an already troubled world. Fay definitely did show herself to be a strong woman - her early work with the tire iron sure showed that.

And, yes, I do look for a hope for human betterment and like literature that offers that hope in some way, shape or form. I am pretty sure I wouldn't like reality TV. On the other hand, books that show the horror of war often give me hope that we will find another way to solve political problems.

I bought this book a couple of years ago and have learned some things about myself and Grit Lit in the meantime. Maybe I will be reading something completely different in two years once I read through this segment of my book pipeline. At the moment I wonder if "garbage in, garbage out" has any relevance?

Thanks for helping me think about this, Diane. Sincerely, thanks.


message 18: by Ned (new) - rated it 4 stars

Ned | 31 comments Larry, you may be one of the last great innocents. That reality TV is as unreal as it gets. Fay is closer to the real thing, and that truth will not corrupt if you take it in, as you can detect it in all its authentic dimensions, good and bad. That's my way of thinking.


message 19: by Randy (last edited Nov 19, 2014 08:37AM) (new)

Randy (randy_thornhorn) | 57 comments Diane wrote: "Larry, where you and I differ in our approach to literature is that you think that every story should have some sort of solution for humanity or it's worthless, and I just think it should tell a go..."

Atticus Finch is an anomoly. More often than not, role models are the death of art. You will find few good role models in Shakespeare. Great drama is built on conflict and fascination.


message 20: by Lawyer, "Moderator Emeritus" (last edited Nov 19, 2014 09:23AM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Lawyer (goodreadscommm_sullivan) | 2699 comments Mod
Randy wrote: "Atticus Finch is an anomoly. More often than not, role models are the death of art. You will find few good role models in Shakespeare. Great drama is built on conflict and fascination. "

Randy, an astute observation. To a great extent, I agree. The Atticus Finches are few and far between. They are the exception, not the norm. I would say that were all protagonists the paragons of virtue, that would be the true decline of literature. As you say, Great drama is built on conflict. And to me, it is generally conflict arising from the imperfections of weaknesses of human conduct in conflict with behavior that is socially expected but rarely followed. The example of Shakespeare's tragedies could not be more on point.

In viewing characters contained in works by authors the likes of Larry Brown, William Gray, and a some of the characters created by one Randy Thornhorn, I am reminded of a quote by Rick Bragg:“Every life deserves a certain amount of dignity, no matter how poor or damaged the shell that carries it.” --From All Over but the Shoutin'All Over but the Shoutin'


message 21: by Lawyer, "Moderator Emeritus" (new) - rated it 4 stars

Lawyer (goodreadscommm_sullivan) | 2699 comments Mod
Larry wrote: "I bought this book a couple of years ago and have learned some things about myself and Grit Lit in the meantime. Maybe I will be reading something completely different in two years once I read through this segment of my book pipeline. At the moment I wonder if "garbage in, garbage out" has any relevance? "

Larry, I think it would be helpful if you clarified the meaning of the following: "At the moment I wonder if "garbage in, garbage out" has any relevance? " If your perception relates to your thoughts regarding to works of authors classified as grit lit being garbage taken in by you, I'd say pursuing that pipeline has reached a point of diminishing returns. I would never discourage someone from reading a book. In fact, my purpose in maintaining this group from day one has been to encourage exploration and reading of books that readers have not discouraged. However, your continued, for lack of a better word, apparent distress, that works of "grit lit" cause you indicate that perhaps the time has come to cap this particular pipeline. This group selects reads not solely limited to that subgenre of Southern Literature. I encourage you to continue the pleasure of discovering new reads that delight and please you. But I would add that expecting any literary work to mesh with your philosophical gestalt is a road to disappointment.

We live in an imperfect world. True literature reflects the reality of that. The only works that offer an alternative are those that advocate social change leading to a more perfect world.

Sincerely,
Mike Sullivan


message 22: by Randy (last edited Nov 20, 2014 09:51AM) (new)

Randy (randy_thornhorn) | 57 comments Mike wrote: "They are the exception, not the norm. I would say that were all protagonists the paragons of virtue, that would be the true decline of literature."..."

Yes, and I think most good role models in great literature are not the central character of the story; the tale is seldom told from their point of view. But there are others beyond Atticus.

Sam the Lion in The Last Picture Show springs to mind ...

RT


message 23: by Deborah (new)

Deborah | 53 comments For those of you who have read Andre Dubois III, did anyone else see a similarity between the way Brown and Dubois tell stories? About three quarters of the way in that thought struck me, and I've been wrestling with it ever since.


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