A career-spanning collection, Tiny Love brings together for the first time the stories of Larry Brown’s previous collections along with those never before gathered. This is the whole of Larry Brown, the arc laid bare, and the fullest portrait we’ll see of one of the South’s most singular artists.
...blunt and brilliant stories ... [Brown] knew the hidden details, and told vibrant, strangely funny stories featuring the grit and detritus of hardscrabble lives in the fetid South. The voice was plain, direct, quite often close to confessional, at other times clearly confessional. His heart was big and his arms spread wide. He didn’t look away from characters who had an obvious flaw, or a couple of them, maybe more, and they were never portrayed as less than human, beyond concern, unworthy souls. He challenged the reader to give a damn ... The major entertainments on display are hitting the sauce and the search for love, as love and all the tipsy complications provide the ongoing drama in these people’s lives ... Readers may occasionally sniff at Larry Brown’s characterization of women; breasts and curves and desirability are assessed. Racial slurs that reflect their day and age are uttered a few times, but lest we ruin our enjoyment of such great works, we should be slow to judge, because, as with the flow of time unfurling in this vast collection, 25 years from now who knows what will make us uneasy. But we very much need these markers standing as witnesses to the evolution of our conduct.
Read in order, the stories have a progression, becoming increasingly at ease with themselves and their telling ... with their asides and fondness for spatial transitions, the stories in the much anticipated Tiny Love contain a bite that his novels, no matter how excellent and more seasoned, sometimes lack ... Brown’s construction of his stories is akin to moving from verse to chorus, with a rhythmic lick and kick at the end, all in a time signature familiar but with its own syncopation ... It’s a predominantly male world, but Brown describes it with enough compassion and humanity to make all those mishaps and misfortunes seem universal ... Placed at the tail-end of Tiny Love, it’s arguably the best of Brown’s uncollected work ... Taken as a whole, these previously uncollected stories illustrate Brown’s willingness to experiment with various voices and sentence construction, traveling beyond the region in which they are set to a universal place where he would be able to locate the voice one hears in his later novels ... Brown...put in the hard graft to give his stories not only the haunting honesty and straightforwardness of old-school country songs, but also had that element of unpredictability typical of more recent outsider oddball songsters like Prine, Ben Weaver, or poetic lyricist Alejandro Escovedo, whose work Brown would champion toward the end of his life.
Brown’s fiction shows the early influences of authors he read voraciously, including Flannery O’Connor, Charles Bukowski, and Cormac McCarthy, but his own style emerged during his evolution as a writer who eventually set up shop near the intersection of Carver and Faulkner ... Threads of humor and grace run through the tales of violence, infidelities, and alcoholism, masterfully introducing an unexpected compassion. Brown excels at capturing psychological complexity with spare, humane prose in an original voice that was sadly lost to us far too soon.