Sunday, March 22, 2015

Review: "Fay" by Larry Brown

As much as I support Larry Brown and want to keep his legacy alive, his novel, Fay, is surely not something that will be remembered as a milestone for him. It has everything that makes Brown such a unique part of Southern Literature, from clean, honest prose that never undermines the reader, a harrowing story of high tragedy among low people, and a keen sense of sympathy and understanding for the most tarnished of souls. But despite that, this novel feels overlong and overstuffed, probably more so than any other book that I have read in a while, being almost 500 pages long but really have only enough gas to sustain the story for about a 100 pages less than its length. It makes for many moments during this book, which is fairly easy to read, where I, as a reader, felt very detached from the novel’s proceedings, which is very uncharacteristic of Brown’s books. The eponymous woman of the title is a seventeen year old illiterate girl who is running away from an unseen home life with half a pack of cigarettes and two dollars in her purse. Those two dollars don’t last very long, as Fay is swept in the lives of a wide variety of people, from a group of men who only love fishing and rape, to a good-hearted sheriff with a few too many secrets, and a brutal gang of criminals who surely don’t have her best interests in mind. The novel is very much like James Kelman’s How Late It Was, How Late, in at it presents a few days in the life of a blank, wandering soul in the lives of the people they encounter, only here, she is something of a harbinger of doom. Although it sounds interesting, Fay is little more than a vessel that reacts to the violence and depravity that happen around her, and she fluctuates between fascinating and dull too many times for my liking. I’d say check this out if you like Brown, but to discover how great he is what we lost when he died, pick another novel.
Rating: 4/5

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