After I finished Facing the Music last year, I didn’t see myself becoming a huge Larry Brown fan. That short story collection is good enough, but it’s not spectacular and no way near as intriguing as the man himself. Joe, though! Joe is a great novel, and now I’m entirely won over. (Could you tell from the TWO Larry Brown books I found and purchased at the Centenary Book Bazaar?)
I think I picked it up because I saw a trailer for the recent movie and then realized who wrote it. I haven’t seen the movie and might not bother because it can’t be as good (though I doubt it’s an abomination like the new The Giver film, but I digress). Here is said trailer:
Joe is about, well, Joe, who lives in backwoods Mississippi and works in the logging business. He’s sort of a hick, likes to drink, has lady trouble, and is disliked by the local sheriff’s deputies. He does well enough and lives comfortably. Then, a (probably) 14-year-old kid named Gary shows up with his father, asking for a job. Joe hires them for the day to poison trees so they can be replaced by pines. Gary works hard, but his father doesn’t do much of anything, and after they’re paid (and fired) at the end of the day, Gary’s father hits him and takes his money and goes to the store to buy (and steal) alcohol. This father is generally a bad sort, bordering on Cormac McCarthy-grade evil. He kills a homeless man for his alcohol and cash, and things just get worse by the end of the book. One rainy night, Gary shows up at Joe’s house, asking to work, and Joe hires him. Life continues, and Things Happen.
I’m so bad at summarizing good books. Just read it. It’s worth your time.
Maybe I like this book so much because I grew up in the general vicinity, and I know people like Joe. What’s funny is that most of the people I know like him live way up in South Dakota. They’re good people, and they work hard. Joe is a good guy.
I almost want to see the movie because Nicholas Cage seems like a strange choice for Joe. If Jeff Bridges was a few years younger, he’d be perfect, but the character is 43 or 44, and Jeff Bridges is, well, significantly older. But Nicholas Cage? I think it got good reviews.
Joe falls in the top five books I’ve read this year, and Larry Brown was one of the best contemporary southern writers. It’s a pity he died so young.