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Dirty Work (1989)

by Larry Brown

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3731268,974 (4.07)15
Dirty Work is the story of two men, strangers--one white, the other black. Both were born and raised in Mississippi. Both fought in Vietnam. Both were gravely wounded. Now, twenty-two years later, the two men lie in adjacent beds in a VA hospital.Over the course of a day and a night, Walter James and Braiden Chaney talk of memories, of passions, of fate. With great vision, humor, and courage, Brown writes mostly about love in a story about the waste of war.… (more)
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English (11)  French (1)  All languages (12)
Showing 1-5 of 11 (next | show all)
This book is a Vietnam-war related book as it is about Vietnam war veterans. It is really a character-study as there is really not much action in the book. There is a lot of narrative and it may be difficult at times to determine who is narrated a particular chapter. However, it is well worth the read for anyone with an interest in Vietnam war literature. ( )
  GrammaPollyReads | Apr 25, 2024 |
Two Vietnam vets get to know one another in a Veteran's hospital over the course of a painful evening. One, a multiple amputee, hopes to convince the other, a severe head wound survivor, to engage in an act of brutal mercy. The narrative cuts between the two as they retell their stories to each other, and to themselves. It's sad and moving, and psychedelic sometimes - the amputee has a frank conversation with a chain smoking Jesus.

3 bones!!! ( )
  blackdogbooks | Sep 25, 2023 |
Book #692 in my old book database. Not rated.
  villemezbrown | Oct 29, 2022 |
This is the kind of novel that is, on its surface, fairly simple. There are two Vietnam vets, seriously injured during the war, who find themselves in adjacent beds in a VA hospital. One is black, the other white, and through the length of one night, they share their stories with one another. However, what is exposed in the telling of the stories are the hearts of two men, and the heart is never a simple thing, is it?

Larry Brown, with the precision of a surgeon, cuts to all the things that matter the most in life: our concept of who we are, our families and our loves, our longings and disappointments, our ability to handle the things in life that are unfair and unjust, and our desire to hang on or let go of the world we know. He wraps them up in the fabric of war, the senselessness, the fear, the consequences, and then he asks what makes us alike or different.

This book is so powerful, it makes you shake. There is so much to pity, so much courage on display, and so much wisdom, bought at too high a price. But what makes it work completely and irrefutably is its honesty. You could walk into any VA hospital in the country and listen to the men there, and you might find Walter and Braiden, you might overhear any part of this conversation, because the earning of a purple heart is indeed dirty work that scars its recipient for life.
( )
  mattorsara | Aug 11, 2022 |
I recently read two other books on the brutal impact of war on the individual soldier, Redeployment by Phil Klay and a reread of All Quiet on the Western Front by Erich Maria Remarque. Dirty Work came much closer than Redeployment to leaving me with the frustration and sense of inevitability that All Quiet on the Western Front produced on both reads. Dirty Work is the story of two Vietnam vets, one black and one white, who come together in a Vet medical facility 22 years after the war. Braiden Chaney, left with no arms or legs, and Larry, seriously disabled by shrapnel in his brain and damage to his face, struggle with limited life choices. Over two days, Braiden and Larry share their lives with one another. While I can not place Dirty Work at the same level as Brown’s Father and Son, it left me moved, wanting to look away but knowing that I must pay attention. I think Larry Brown deserves to be more widely read, and I encourage everyone to try him out. ( )
  afkendrick | Oct 24, 2020 |
Showing 1-5 of 11 (next | show all)
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For Daddy, who knew what war does to men.
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This the trip I took that day, day they brought Walter in.
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I know where you been, man. I've decided it's all the same. it's just the places and the reasons that change. Or maybe just the enemy. Hell. Let's open us another beer.
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Dirty Work is the story of two men, strangers--one white, the other black. Both were born and raised in Mississippi. Both fought in Vietnam. Both were gravely wounded. Now, twenty-two years later, the two men lie in adjacent beds in a VA hospital.Over the course of a day and a night, Walter James and Braiden Chaney talk of memories, of passions, of fate. With great vision, humor, and courage, Brown writes mostly about love in a story about the waste of war.

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