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Larry Brown and the Blue-Collar South$
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Jean W. Cash and Keith Perry

Print publication date: 2008

Print ISBN-13: 9781934110751

Published to University Press of Mississippi: March 2014

DOI: 10.14325/mississippi/9781934110751.001.0001

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date: 17 December 2018

Implicating the Reader

Implicating the Reader

Dirty Work and the Burdens of Southern History

(p.18) Implicating the Reader
Larry Brown and the Blue-Collar South

Robert Donahoo

University Press of Mississippi

This chapter offers a reading of Larry Brown’s 1989 novel Dirty Work, focusing on how it asks readers to willingly identify with the appalling situation that the central character, Walter James, faces toward its end. It argues that Brown not only “lays out a pattern of morally authorized involvement that demands Walter’s murder of fellow Vietnam veteran Braiden as its most logical culmination,” but in so doing forces readers to confront “one of the central issues of Southern history.” Drawing on Wolfgang Iser’s work, particularly his publications from the 1970s and 1980s, the chapter analyzes the novel’s “aesthetic” or “virtual dimension.” It also highlights Brown’s play on the idea of place and placement, which subtly underscores his own assertions about the importance of race and class issues, and, finally, explains how Brown’s novel guides readers to imagine themselves into Southern history by offering them an experience of complexity and frustration reminiscent of that of the South.

Keywords:   murder, Larry Brown, Dirty Work, Wolfgang Iser, place, placement, race, class, South, Vietnam

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