cover image Big Bad Love: Stories

Big Bad Love: Stories

Larry Brown. Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill, $17.95 (240pp) ISBN 978-0-945575-46-7

Brown, whose novel Dirty Work was published to high praise last year, returns to short fiction in this virtuoso collection that parades a club of backwoods loners--men who swill too much beer, want too many women and write too many short stories. A casual glance suggests invasion of Raymond Carver territory, but Brown stakes out his own turf by dint of his integrity and wit; his heroes are savants of the down-and-out set, harrowingly aware of their own limitations without abandoning hope of salvation. Brown's people are disempowered but canny: at the end of ``Falling Out of Love,'' the narrator says, ``I saw with a sick feeling in my heart that our happy ending was about to take a turn for the worse.'' In ``Discipline,'' presented as a play, a writer sentenced to ``hacks' prison'' comes before the parole board; he claims that the guard--a senior editor--has punished him for his poor writing by forcing him to prostitute himself. The final story, ``92 Days,'' constitutes a type of coda: a man otherwise immolated in grief turns to fiction, embroiling his characters in situations that mirror his own desperation and abandoning them--and their stories--when he cannot construct solutions for them. (Sept.)