The Unauthorized Biography of Rosco P. Coltrane

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Location: Owensboro, Kentucky, United States

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Monday, April 11, 2005

Larry Brown--The Late and Great Southern American Writer

Resides--Tula, Mississippi
Known Since--A Writing Course at Ole Miss in 1998

His accent was unmistakable. It was deep and had formed long ago somewhere in the backwoods of North Mississippi. It was what some people would call rich, but I would call dark. Not really low. But slow and all-knowing. The knowledge that no one enjoys to really know, much less understand.

I remember reading his book of short stories called Facing the Music the semester before I was in his class. I remember reading one story and thinking, man this is like a bad horror story. It was easy to see what was going to happen and there was nothing you could do to get the character to stop.

I never told Larry that, but I like to think that he would have laughed.

He was a former firefighter. He saw things and wrote about them. They were surely nightmares and horrors. He had to live with those images and thoughts. I can read his books and realize that they are fiction, and think that it is all made up. But I am sure Larry could never really see his writings like that because he knew what was true and what wasn't. When Larry would write about having to extract someone from a horrible wreck with the jaws of life, it wasn't imagined. It was real.

We met a few times during the semester. We talked about a lot of things and he recommended a lot of authors to me. I remember one time I had a story due in his class. I had started on a pretty lame story about a farmer trying to kill a tomcat and never really saw where the story was going. So I tore the story in pieces and burned on my grill. I told Larry about this and he laughed.

"Yeah, I did that once too."

"Really?"

"Yeah," he paused and asked, "did it make you feel any better?"

"Nope"

"Yeah, it never does."

Larry was a good person. He had a family. He had his farm. He had his writing. He had us all in the way that he could spin a story and make you care about people who you usually see at a grocery store and try not to make any eye contact with. They might be dirty, might smell, might be drunk or stoned or in pain or in love so bad that they want to murder someone. Maybe they have already murdered someone. Larry wrote about these people and made them humans and made them the monsters that they are and that we all are. He forced us to look at them, at ourselves.

2 Comments:

Anonymous Jean W. Cash said...

I am writing a biography of Larry Brown with the support of his widow Mary Annie and his mother, Leona Barlow Brown.

I read your comments on Brown with great interest.

Will you identify yourself more fully and can you give me the names of other students in Brown's classes at Ole Miss?

12:23 PM  
Blogger Lafe said...

Jean, you can email me at lafe.benson@gmail.com, and I will try to help you out as much as I can...

2:29 PM  

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