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On Fire [Kindle Edition]

Larry Brown
5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)

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Book Description

On January 6, 1990, after seventeen years on the job, award-winning novelist Larry Brown quit the Oxford, Mississippi, Fire Department. With three published books to his credit and a fourth nearly finished, he made the risky decision to try life as a full-time writer. On Fire, his first work of nonfiction, looks back on his life as a full-time firefighter. Unflinching accounts of daily trauma--from the blistering heat of burning trailer homes to the crunch of broken glass at crash scenes--catapult readers into the hard reality that has driven Larry Brown.

As firefighter and fireman-turned-author, as husband and hunter, and as father and son, Brown offers insights into the choices men face pursuing their life’s work. And, in the forthright style we expect from Larry Brown, his diary builds incrementally and forcefully to the explanation of how one man who regularly confronted death began to burn with the desire to write about life.

On Fire is a book in which an extraordinarily gifted writer looks back and reflects on the violence of his life as a fireman. Thoreau said it one way: “However mean your life is, meet it and live it.” Larry Brown says it another:

You have to meet the thing, is what it is . . . and for the firefighter it is fire. It has to be faced and defeated so that you prove to yourself that you meet the measure of the job. You cannot turn your back on it, as much as you would like to be in cooler air.

“Larry Brown has an ear for the way people talk, an eye for their habits and manners, a heart for the frailties and foibles, and a love for their struggles and triumphs. His fireman’s diary is a wonderful book.” —John Grisham, author of The Firm and The Client

"Larry Brown is never romantic about danger and . . . in this book he goes through his life with the same meticulous attention with which Thoreau circled the woods around Walden Pond." —The New York Times Book Review.



Product Description

Synopsis

Recounting his experiences of danger and adventure, a former firefighter describes how he and his companions adjust to the frequent horrors they witness and struggle for balance in an effort to live normal lives. By the author of Joe. Reprint.

Product details

  • Format: Kindle Edition
  • File Size: 1631 KB
  • Print Length: 193 pages
  • Page Numbers Source ISBN: 1565120094
  • Publisher: Algonquin Books; 1st ed edition (1 Jan. 1994)
  • Sold by: Amazon Media EU S.à r.l.
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B0097DM5HW
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Word Wise: Not Enabled
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #926,384 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars So simple, yet so affecting and evocative 29 May 2011
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
I love Larry Brown's writing. So simple, yet so affecting and evocative. This collection of autobiographical tales was written as a reflection on the time in his life from the '70s to the early 90s as an Oxford Fire Department member in Mississippi. That alone would be good enough - his stories tell of the unique esprit de corps in the fire station and of the many harrowing emergencies they would attend. But this book is more than just this. Brown writes of what that life was like as a colleague among the truest of friends, as a professional - sure of his abilities and confident in his training and equipment, as a man coping with moments of life, death and devastation on a routine basis, and as a husband and father living a blue collar existence in a simple home doing simple things.

It is these latter recollections which penetrated the most - you feel the soul of the man as he tells of half-hearted hunting expeditions with his sons, planting trees with his buddies in a snowy January landscape, or the heartbreaking episode of the disappearing kittens and the stuggle to settle with himself the ethics of raising rabbits for profit.

Intermittently he makes reference to his private passion - writing - and his efforts to fit that parallel vocation in with his home and work lives. These tiny insights are fascinating, and truly give an indication of what kind of a man he was.
Highly recommended.
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By GC
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
Very good indeed. I retired 8 years ago but this took me straight back there.

GJEC(Leicestershire F & R Service 1974-2006)
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Amazon.com: 3.4 out of 5 stars  26 reviews
11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Notes from the Firehouse in Oxford, Mississippi 8 Mar. 2003
By Ronald Scheer - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
I did not know of Larry Brown until I saw the film "Big Bad Love," based on one of his stories. I wasn't crazy about the film but was fascinated by the imagination it emerged from, and gave one of his books a try. For starters, I read his memoir "On Fire," about his years as an Oxford, Mississippi, fireman. I thought it would be about fighting fires, responding to emergencies, and what goes on in the firehouse in between. I expected some reflection on the world of firemen, which I understand to be a social order of its own, like policemen.
There is all of that and considerably more in this wonderful collection of short essays, many of them dashed off during those off hours in the firehouse, often recounting an experience Brown and his compatriots just had, rescuing someone trapped in a smashed car, putting out a fire, or just screwing around. You learn something of the process of firefighting as Brown reconstructs the events of several fires, including one in the top floor of a building at Ole Miss. He explains how they use the Jaws of Life. You learn about the daily routines of checking equipment for readiness, as well as continual training in CPR and different kinds of fires.
But much in the book is unexpected. There are pieces about dogs, hunting, lost kittens, cookouts, practical jokes, watching hawks, petty thefts, driving, drinking beer, and S and V on HBO. Essays that will stay in my memory include his account of a trip to New York to appear on the Today show when one of his books is published and learning while he's there that his wife and son have been hurt in a car accident, then discovering when he finds out they are OK that his dog Sam has died. The mental image of him crying in the airport is vivid and moving.
On a more hilarious note is an account of a long day's drive to a training exercise in the Delta, where they arrive late and drunk. On a more literary note, there's his account of setting up a hose to provide fake rain for a documentary film at William Faulkner's home, just down the road from the firehouse. His reflections on Faulkner sitting in the house and writing novels are full of awe and respect for a giant of letters, a giant who had a cup of coffee every night at a local restaurant where he always left a dime tip for the waitress.
If you've read or you're thinking of reading Brown's fiction, I recommend this book. It's a wonderful introduction to the man and his world, and you get a sense of the raw material that feeds his imagination.
11 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Made in America (Mississippi in particular) 5 Nov. 2001
By Garbageman - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
Judging from the reviews here, one would expect Larry Brown's "On Fire" to be a travesty of modern nonfiction, an insult to firefighters and rescue personnel, and a rough estimate of the degree to which mankind has fallen from some form of enlightened perch. For grief's sake, people, it's only a book, and a fairly good and compelling one at that. Apparently many people (either in or out of the fire service) have such lofty expectations of their heroes (reinforced sadly by the events of September 11) that to envision firefighters as doing anything more rowdy than a tough game of touch football is to destroy the halos we all love to put on them in our society. Truth is, folks, and this is a firefighter talking here, most of them have the same ordinary, mundane concerns as you and other dead-end jobbers do, especially those whose careers take them down dark paths (as dryly and matter-of-factly as Brown writes them here). They love and hate, they rage and submit, they work and play, they hunt and fish, they drink and smoke, they are ordinary men and women, and they are somehow more important for many of the reasons Brown indicates. What I feel is the book's greatest strength is that Brown's portrayal is as much a myth-destroyer as it is a myth-builder: firefighters, he seems to say, rise above the mundane when asked, and slip beneath it when allowed.
Now as for the whole hunting / fishing / cruelty to animals bent that seems to turn everyone off, I suggest you all buy a plane ticket to Memphis, drive south toward Oxford itself, and observe the country Brown writes about and writes from. In case you haven't read any of his other works, it's pretty consistent with other Larry Brown, and yes, it's country-boy living. Some can handle it, and some don't. As for Brown, I think he probably feels as I do: thanks for stoppin' by, and if you see something you don't like, then don't let the door hit you too hard. Frankly, I read Larry Brown for just that attitude and reality, and I wouldn't have it any other way.
If you're looking for a glorious depiction of firefighting, or a glamorized portrayal of the Mississippi South, you're invited to read a few fictional accounts of each. But if you want the cold, hard reality of life that only Brown ever seems to bring to light, the pop open a cold one and join him for a tale or two. It'll be, as he says, "mighty fine".
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Fire Fighter's Life 22 May 2012
By Donald E. Gilliland - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
Brown wrote several excellent novels such as "Joe" and "Dirty Work" before he passed away a few years ago. Gone too soon, like many great ones. This book, however, is a memoir of his days as a firefighter in Oxford, Mississippi, before he gave up his firehose and axe for pen and paper. More than a book about fighting fires and rescuing people from gruesome highway auto accidents, Brown also writes about life in small town Mississippi and his family. Just like in his novels, Brown can write about matters as mundane as drinking beer or riding around in pickup trucks and still sustain the reader's interest. The man had a way with words. If you've read any of his novels and enjoyed them, you should like these essays too.
5 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Hot stuff -- an inspiration for writers! 21 Jun. 1999
By A Customer - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
This is an excellent book about a man who knows who he is, dreams of what he might be, and works his butt off to make the near-impossible real.
It's a great book for struggling writers to read because Larry Brown came from nowhere to become one of the great writers of his generation and he did it on the strength of his will alone.
There are passages in this book so lovely they make you catch your breath.
5.0 out of 5 stars Deft writing from a light touch master. 23 April 2011
By Paul Harris - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
I love Larry Brown's writing. So simple, yet so affecting and evocative. This collection of autobiographical tales was written as a reflection on the time in his life from the '70s to the early 90s as an Oxford Fire Department member in Mississippi. That alone would be good enough - his stories tell of the unique esprit de corps in the fire station and of the many harrowing emergencies they would attend. But this book is more than just this. Brown writes of what that life was like as a colleague among the truest of friends, as a professional - sure of his abilities and confident in his training and equipment, as a man coping with moments of life, death and devastation on a routine basis, and as a husband and father living a blue collar existence in a simple home doing simple things.

It is these latter recollections which penetrated the most - you feel the soul of the man as he tells of half-hearted hunting expeditions with his sons, planting trees with his buddies in a snowy January landscape, or the heartbreaking episode of the disappearing kittens and the stuggle to settle with himself the ethics of raising rabbits for profit.

Intermittently he makes reference to his private passion - writing - and his efforts to fit that parallel vocation in with his home and work lives. These tiny insights are fascinating, and truly give an indication of what kind of a man he was.
Highly recommended.
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