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A Miracle of Catfish

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Larry Brown has been a force in American literature since taking critics by storm with his debut collection, Facing the Music, in 1988. His subsequent work—five novels, another story collection, and two books of nonfiction—continued to bring extraordinary praise and national attention to the writer New York Newsday called a "master."

In November 2004, Brown sent the nearly completed manuscript of his sixth novel to his literary agent. A week later, he died of a massive heart attack. He was fifty-three years old.

A Miracle of Catfish is that novel. Brown's trademarks—his raw detail, pared-down prose, and characters under siege—are all here.

This beautiful, heartbreaking anthem to the writer's own North Mississippi land and the hard-working, hard-loving, hard-losing men it spawns is the story of one year in the lives of five characters—an old farmer with a new pond he wants stocked with baby catfish; a bankrupt fish pond stocker who secretly releases his forty-pound brood catfish into the farmer's pond; a little boy from the trailer home across the road who inadvertently hooks the behemoth catfish; the boy's inept father; and a former convict down the road who kills a second time to save his daughter.

That Larry Brown died so young, and before he could see A Miracle of Catfish published, is a tragedy. That he had time to enrich the legacy of his work with this remarkable book is a blessing.

From Publishers Weekly

Dec 04, 2006 – This sprawling novel was unfinished when Mississippi writer Brown (Dirty Work, etc.) died at 53 in 2004. (It remains so, according to a note from editor Shannon Ravenel, who includes Brown's own notes for how the novel would end.) Cortez Sharp, a widower in his later years, decides to build a catfish pond on his Mississippi acreage, mostly because the pond will serve (he imagines drily and obliquely) to bring others around and assuage his dark loneliness. Nearby live young Jimmy and his ne'er-do-well father ("Jimmy's daddy"). There's also Lucinda, who is Cortez's daughter and the mother of Albert, a young man with Tourette's syndrome who speaks in rhyming obscenities. Lucinda pops tranquilizers and has a talent for getting into odd squabbles (over the quality of pigs' feet in a supermarket, for one). Elsewhere, Cleve, an African-American ex-con, kills a soldier who is the object of his daughter's affections and hides the body in the woods. Despite the cuts that Ravenel says were made (marked in the text with ellipses), there's a lot of superfluously detailed family history, interior monologue and Dixie atmospherics. Would-be boffo sequences (Cortez driving a tractor into the pond; Jimmy becoming inconsolable when his father sells his beloved Go Kart), are not sharp enough to carry one through.

Customer Reviews


This unfinished novel, Larry Brown's last novel, is such a beautiful piece of writing, that no one reviewing it can add anything that cannot be found between it's covers. So, all one can do is try to convince the review reader to sit down with this book and get to work. If you love reading about people and reading about their day to day experiences ,and how people handle the obstacles and everyday horrors that life throws at them, you will find the best kind of that writing here.
If the thread about Jimmy and Jimmy's daddy doesn't break your heart, then I suppose nothing much else will.
Still mad that he's gone and still crushed that there will be no more books by Larry, but still feeling blessed for what he did leave behind.

I will never read this book

I've loved Larry Brown's writing since I first picked up his novel Joe a lifetime ago. Since that first book, I've read and re-read every book he ever wrote. He has a natural ability to capture people, animals, and nature in a way that's simple yet sophisticated and always completely honest. His writing made me green with envy. And then he died. The thought of never reading another book by Larry Brown is simply too much to handle. For this reason, I bought this book and it stands gathering dust on my shelf. I'll never read it. For now, it's enough to know it's there and waiting for me. If you want to read a masterful writer, read Larry Brown.

A Miracle of Catfish
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  • $9.99
  • Available on iPhone, iPad, iPod touch, and Mac.
  • Category: Literary
  • Published: Mar 20, 2007
  • Publisher: Algonquin Books
  • Seller: Workman Publishing Co., Inc.
  • Print Length: 455 Pages
  • Language: English
  • Requirements: To view this book, you must have an iOS device with iBooks 1.3.1 or later and iOS 4.3.3 or later, or a Mac with iBooks 1.0 or later and OS X 10.9 or later.

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