Jason Brown

A Faithful but Melancholy Account of Several Barbarities Lately Committed

by Jason Brown

Available here and here

ISBN: 978-1-945829-24-6

Retail price:$14.95

Genre: Literary/Linked short stories

Page count: 191


The ten linked stories in Jason Brown’s new collection, A Faithful but Melancholy Account of Several Barbarities Recently Committed (TMR Books, December 2019), follow John Howland and his descendants as they struggle with their New England legacy as one of the country’s founding families and the decaying trappings of that esteemed past. Set on the Maine coast, where the Howland family has lived for almost 400 years, the grandfather, John Howland, lives in a fantasy that still places him at the center of the world. The next generation resides in the confused ruins of the 1960s rebellion, while many in the third generation scatter in search of new identities. Brown’s touching, humorous portrait of a great family in decline earns him a place among the best linked-story collections—James Joyce’s Dubliners, Sherwood Anderson’s Winesburg, Ohio, Alice Munro’s Beggar Maid, and Denis Johnson’s Jesus’ Son.

Jason Brown grew up in Maine.  He was a Stegner Fellow and Truman Capote Fellow at Stanford and now teaches in the MFA program at the University of Oregon.  His stories have appeared in The Atlantic, Harper’s, Best American Short Stories, The Pushcart Prize Anthology, NPR’s Selected Shorts, and other places.  He has published two story collections, Driving the Heart (1999) and Why the Devil Chose New England for His Work (2007).


“Jason Brown’s A Faithful but Melancholy Account of Several Barbarities Lately Committed is, to say it simply, one of the best collections of linked stories I have ever read by anybody, at any time. One by one, these stories are riveting. When you finish the entire book, you will be shaking your head at their collective power. What a writer. What an artist.”

—Steve Yarbrough, The Unmade World and The Realm of Last Chances

“Like the Patrick Melrose novels—but in miniature and in Maine—this wonderful and unusual novel-in-stories juxtaposes the downfall of the Howland family with the increasing disillusionment of one of its younger members, John.  In laugh-out-loud prose, Jason Brown crucifies the esteemed Howlands, who consider themselves to be above all things (even life itself), as they struggle to understand their place in an increasingly unfamiliar world—one that is better for almost everyone except their family.  What’s waiting in the wings, then, for John?  A needle in the arm or a place at the table of the anointed?  A Faithful but Melancholy Account of Several Barbarities Lately Committed is a staggering portrait of inheritance and identity from one of our very best writers.”

—Marjorie Celona, author of Y

“Jason Brown is a true master of the short story, and this book is wonderfully reminiscent of Elizabeth Strout’s Olive Kitteridge. Tender and insightful, dotted with humor, these are stories of real human beings. Brown’s characters are flawed and full of longing, aching for connection and haunted by history. Read this book.”

—Karen Thompson Walker, The Dreamers​​

“Calling to mind Salinger and O’Connor and Cheever, but with a dark vaudeville all its own, Jason Brown’s A Faithful but Melancholy Account of Several Barbarities Lately Committed is thrilling. Ranging far and wide in time and place and character, these linked stories burrow deep into the history of a family and of a country, proving again that our shared past, though we may labor to ignore it, haunts us still. These are American stories at their finest.”

—Dan O’Brien, The House in Scarsdale: A Memoir for the Stage

“The narrators of Brown’s second book of stories are mostly watchers—witnesses to sordid events in the fictional town of Vaughn, Maine. Through their eyes, the familiar routines of small-town life are transmogrified into emblematic ugliness. Some of the stories deal with Maine’s twin preoccupations with boats and lumber, but the strongest anatomize the town with stunning emotional precision.”

The New Yorker

“Readers of Jason Brown’s newest collection . . . will revel in these stories set in a single Maine town. Bordering on allegory, they offer a timeless look at the ways people confront bleak circumstances. . . . Like the work of Nathaniel Hawthorne, Brown’s stories render the Gothic mysteries of Maine’s forests, homing in on psychological evils rather than the demented horrors of Stephen King. But as Sherwood Anderson did in Winesburg, Ohio, Brown also captures the pulse of rural life and its small, hidden disturbances.”

Cleveland Plain Dealer

“The fact that Brown’s stories read like allegories makes them no less surprising; what is most original about them is, in fact, their sincerity. . . . Imagine The Virgin Suicides within an ethical framework. These are stories that truly have some weight to them.”