Big Bad Love
Most of the stories in BIG BAD LOVE describe the rowdy, self-destructive antics of good old boys who ride around in pickup trucks listening to Country Western music and drinking Old Milwaukee beer out of the can. The longest selection, “92 Days,” is about a self-taught writer who is struggling to sell a story before his wife has him put in jail for nonpayment of child support. In “The Apprentice” it is the wife who has been bitten by the writing bug and the husband who suffers neglect. In the title story, “Big Bad Love,” a marriage collapses because both spouses are looking for happiness outside the home. Brown’s female characters, as in “Falling Out of Love” and “Wild Thing,” tend to be the types who wear tight jeans and hang out in bars: They have learned not to expect much of men, so they are seldom disappointed. Evidently the modern plague of alienation has spread from the cities to the smallest hamlets.
Like many contemporary fiction writers, Brown often sounds despairing. This is an occupational hazard in a profession that, according to John Steinbeck, “makes horse racing seem like a solid, stable business.” However, Brown’s writing has a unique undertone of resilience and good humor reminiscent of the early William Saroyan and even the great Mark Twain. The reader is half-persuaded that this newcomer might really succeed against the odds. Brown is still in the autobiographical, self-discovery stage of his career; whether he can achieve literary distinction depends on many things, including luck, persistence, and longevity.