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Larry Brown's idiosyncratic and powerful Southern novels have earned him widespread critical acclaim. Now, in an ambitious narrative structure reminiscent of Robert Altman's classic film Nashville, this "true original" (Chicago Tribune) weaves together the stories of a sprawling cast of eccentric and lovable characters, each embarked on a quest for meaning, fulfillment, and love -- with poignant and uproarious results.
Set in Memphis and north Mississippi, The Rabbit Factory follows the colliding lives of, among others, Arthur, an older, socially ill-at-ease man of considerable wealth married to the much younger Helen, whose desperate need for satisfaction sweeps her into the arms of other men; Eric, who has run away from home thinking his father doesn't want him and becomes Arthur's unlikely surrogate son; Domino, an ex-con now involved in the drug trade, who runs afoul of a twisted cop; and Anjalee, a big-hearted prostitute with her own set of troubles, who crashes into the lives of the others like a one-woman hurricane.
Teeming with pitch-perfect creations that include quirky gangsters, colorful locals, seemingly straitlaced professors, and fast-and-loose police officers, Brown tells a spellbinding and often hilarious story about the botched choices and missed chances that separate people -- and the tenuous threads of love and coincidence that connect them. With all the subtlety and surprise of life itself, the story turns on a dime from comical to violent to moving. Masterful, profound, and full of spirit, The Rabbit Factory is literary entertainment of the highest order.
From Publishers Weekly
Grimly realistic, tragic-absurd and raunchy, Brown's latest novel returns to his deep South fictional territory and to the characters-poor, largely uneducated, hard-drinking, cigarette and dope smoking-that he portrays so well. This time he juggles a large cast with one thing in common: they're long-time losers whose paths intersect in or near Memphis. Arthur is nearly 70, impotent and fearful of losing his sexy younger wife, Helen. She tries to seduce teenaged Eric, a pet shop employee who fled his abusive father's rabbit factory-a metaphor for the uncaring world in which these people exist. Anjalee is a prostitute who smites the heart of Wayne, a navy boxer. Domino has survived a prison term and now works butchering meat for a gangster named Mr. Hamburger, who sells it to a man who owns lions. Trouble is, the body of one of Mr. Hamburger's victims turns up in the meat locker, which complicates Domino's extracurricular job dealing weed over the border in Mississippi. The plot includes several murders, lots of sex, domestic spats and plenty of action in bars. Even the violent scenes veer close to farce. Dogs figure prominently, one of them a pit bull named Jada Pickett. Miss Muffet, who is the housekeeper for one of the spoiled canines, has a plastic leg. Yet even with the advantage of Brown's keen eye for the absurdities of life and for the habits of people who live on the edge, the book fails to deliver the punch of his earlier works. Fay, his most accomplished novel to date, was darker, but one could identify with the protagonist. Here, the characters are all self-absorbed and incessantly whiny, and their obsessive rambling thoughts are recounted in numbing detail. Readers will understand well before the end that these sad lives will never go anywhere but down.
Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information, Inc.
Brown is a much-beloved writer who was put on the literary map primarily by his very popular novel Joe (1991). His latest will not only please his fans but also win him new ones. There is a kind of southern literary tradition for novelists to go "big screen" by following the plights and exploits of a slew of wacky but indelibly colorful individuals all living in one community and by alternating back and forth among their stories as they come to terms with life in their own peculiar fashion. That is exactly the mode Brown chooses here as we observe hooker Anjalee; older man Arthur along with his younger, sexually dissatisfied wife, Helen; "gunslinger" Frankie and his just desserts; ex-prisoner Domino and his sordid attempts to make a go of it outside the big house; and other equally "attractive" men and women working out their own destinies even when love, sex, and money (or the lack of any or all of the three) get in their way. This is not a gentle community these people inhabit; violence is just around the corner, as are the cops. One hysterical scene is followed by another, all of them underlain with the philosophy that you gotta do what you gotta do to be able to do what you wanna do. Can't go wrong with a conviction like that, can you? Read and see. But you definitely can't go wrong with a novel that has dogs as fully developed characters in their own right. Brad Hooper
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