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Dirty Work Paperback – March 30, 2007

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Two devastatingly wounded Vietnam vets, Chaney, who is black, and James, white, both sons of the South, lie in a veteran's hospital and talk freely about combat, movies, sex, old loves, their boyhoods, how it feels to kill a man and why God allows wars to happen. PW described this novel as "wrenching" and "memorable."
Copyright 1990 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Review

“An unforgettable, unshakable novel.” ―The New York Times Book Review

“The writing, the characters, and the plot are so compelling that you can't help but stay with the book until its conclusion.” Washington Post Book World

“There has been no antiwar novel . . . quite like Larry Brown's Dirty Work.” The New York Times

“One of the most powerful antiwar novels in American literature.” The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

“A marvelous book . . . Brown's swift, intuitive dialogue explodes like a land mine and leaves the reader dizzy with shock.” The Kansas City Star

“A real knockout.” New York Newsday

“A powerful and original work all its own that moves along in short, staccato chapters with indisputably authentic language.” The New York Times

“Stunning power . . . Dirty Work makes the human cost of war achingly real.” USA Today

“An unsparing book, at once brutal and compassionate, horrible, yet funny, too.” The Philadelphia Inquirer

“Courageous . . . It's hard to imagine a more powerful effect than the one Brown creates with his attentive, unsparing prose.” St. Louis Post-Dispatch

“[Brown] has created two fully realized, believable―and often very funny―characters . . . No one who reads this book is likely to forget them.” The Houston Post

“A novel of the first order . . . A gem.”  The Washington Post

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 247 pages
  • Publisher: Algonquin Books; First Edition edition (March 30, 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1565125630
  • ISBN-13: 978-1565125636
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.7 x 8.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (28 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #85,181 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

16 of 16 people found the following review helpful By A. Wells on March 10, 2005
Format: Paperback
If you're prepared to step into a not-so-well-known zone of emotion, turmoil, introspection, strife, heartbreak, and seemingly infinite, dogged self-questioning, then this story may begin to have a lasting effect on you. It is a brief but powerful exploration into a tumultuous, emotional maelstrom about men who have been at war and live its most personal aftermaths. This novel absorbs you, and if you are so inclined, produces an empathetic connection with you that may take a while, if it ever does, for you to break.

Dirty Work is a glimpse at a pivotal moment in the lives of two men who are seemingly brought together for an important purpose. Both are victims of war through devastating wounds; physical, mental, and emotional; and are also victims of the aftermath of their recoveries. They each lived through their physical injuries but found, alas, that their survival placed them in another type of war; a war waged in the way that people react to them and in how they are expected to act around them.

Being from different races and backgrounds, the main characters, Braiden and Walter, irreparably scarred by the Vietnam conflict, are brought together in the confines of a veterans' hospital and are initially wary of each other. But as they soon discover very quickly through their stories to one another, quickly imparting emotional and unspoken understandings, they are bound to form a special bond for a special purpose.

The short time period covered in the "present" part of this story is told amidst non-stop, brief volleys of story swapping and philosophizing from Braiden and Walter. They speak of times when they were young, while in the war, about times after their war experiences, and about their present circumstances. Their exchanges are gripping, and you come to know each of these men at a level that gives you something akin to an emotional bond with them. They stay with you long after you close the back cover of the book.
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17 of 18 people found the following review helpful By Johnny Roulette (bconner1@mindspring.com) on September 22, 1999
Format: Hardcover
Dirty Work is the captivating debut novel from the finest novelist of this generation. Hailed as a modern Johnny Got His Gun, it lives up to and, at times, surpasses such comparisons. Brown's creative way of alternating the perspective, chapter by chapter, between the two main characters works beautifully. It's a fast and compelling read. The dark clouds that permeate Brown's style of storytelling are devoid of silver linings. The emotional landscape is often more stark than the gloomy physical settings where his stories unfold. I have turned many people on to this gem and all have come away as loyal Larry Brown fans. I do not think it's possible to be disappointed with this novel. Dive in with absolute confidence that Mr. Brown will take you where you need to go! You will want more when you are finished.
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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful By theegg on March 7, 2006
Format: Hardcover
I'm new to reviewing books on Amazon and have started out with reviews of my newest favorite author, Larry Brown. For great southern storytelling I love Brown's books "Fay", "Joe" and "Father and Son", and if you are a fan of any of those you probably love them for the same reason I do. But it's what is in "Dirty Work" that proves that Larry Brown was one of the very very best. I didn't know where I'd land once I started reading this book, but it took me to places that just astonished me. The narrative changes in its chapters never became stale or contrived and the development of the characters through thoughts and minimal expression is masterful. It's a powerful book.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on August 1, 1999
Format: Hardcover
Sitting outside at a cafe in MA, I hear the guy next to me talk of Vietnam in terms that made it seem to have happened last week. It is difficult as a member of the generation growing up in the shadows of that war to understand the effects it had on the people who were there. Larry Brown brings that reality to light. He is frank and authoritative in his telling of two souls tortured by the physical and emotional hell they endured. I found myself moved by his accuracy in description of the south and the people who live there. You cannot read this book without relating the characters to people in your own life. I very much enjoyed this book. I recommend it to everyone interested in understanding the war.
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10 of 11 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on November 19, 1999
Format: Hardcover
Brown opens with a reference to "Johnny Get Your Gun," and the novel definitely contains parallels, but his pacing, characters and dialogue are far and away reason enough to pick this up. Like Thom Jones and Tim O'Brien, Brown elicits my great thanks and praises to both vets and the fact that I was born in 1972.
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on September 30, 1998
Format: Hardcover
I was assigned to read just one chapter of this book as part of an advanced high school English class. The teacher had used a marker to blot out all the curse words. That one chapter effected so many people in the class that, over the next few weeks, many of us went out and got the book. The characters were that rich and the plot was that compelling that it got high school kids to read it on their own! That was when I was 17. Now I give the book often as a gift to friends at Christmas. I am now a literature major at a major university and still regard this as simply one of the most powerful novels I have ever read and constantly enjoy returning to it.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Steve R. Oldiges on February 21, 2007
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This period of the south and the steamy afternoons of country drama play all the cards for Family, Patriotism, Race, Class and long forgotten prejudices. Joseph Wambaugh took the rural north for a journey and recently departed Larry Brown does the same for the northern reaches of Mississippi. Not an easy book to put down and not an easy set of emotions to find comfort in. Much like the works of author & Tennessee Sheriff David Hunter's works the less pleasant and the un-glossed image of the south remains.
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