By Rick Bass
(Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, Hardcover, 9780547317267, 272pp.)
Publication Date: September 2010
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Late in 1959, the Brown siblings—Maxine, Bonnie, and Jim Ed—were enjoying unprecedented international success, rivaled only by their longtime friend Elvis Presley. They had a bona fide megahit on their hands, which topped both the country and pop charts and gave rise to the polished sound of the multibillion dollar country music industry we know today. Mesmerized by the Browns’ haunting harmonies, the Beatles even tried to learn their secret. Their unique harmony, however, was only achievable through shared blood, and the trio’s perfect pitch was honed by a childhood spent listening for the elusive pulse and tone of an impeccably tempered blade at their parent’s Arkansas sawmill.
But the Browns’ celebrity couldn’t survive the world changing around them, and the bonds of family began to fray along with the fame. Heartbreakingly, the novel jumps between the Browns’ promising past and the present, which finds Maxine—once supremely confident and ravenous in her pursuit of applause—ailing and alone. As her world increasingly narrows, her hunger for just one more chance to secure her legacy only grows, as does her need for human connection.
Lyrical and nuanced, Nashville Chrome hits all the right grace notes with its vivid evocation of an era in American music, while at its heart it is a wrenching meditation on the complexities of fame and of one family—forgotten yet utterly unforgettable when reclaimed by Bass—who experienced them firsthand.
RICK BASS’s fiction has received O. Henry Awards, numerous Pushcart Prizes, awards from the Texas Institute of Letters, fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts and the Guggenheim Foundation, among others. Most recently, his memoir Why I Came West was a finalist for a National Book Critics Circle Award.
- Nashville Chrome is a fictionalized biography of the Brown family. When you were reading the book, were you more aware of the book as a novel or as biography? Do you read those two genres differently? What do you think are the difficulties for an author in writing such a book?
“Rick Bass deftly weaves the true and fictional into a wonderful novel of the rise and fall of one of country music’s greatest acts—the Browns. It’s as lyrical, plaintive, and true as the best country music, which is exactly what the Browns made. Nashville Chrome is a great celebration of the Browns, and above all, a terrific read.”
—Thomas Cobb author of Crazy Heart and Shavetail
More than 150 writers from 40 events will gather in New York City for PEN World Voices Festival of International Literature, April 28 – May 4, 2014.
For its 10th anniversary, the festival celebrates those who have dared to stand ‘on the edge,’ risking their careers, and sometimes their lives, to speak out for their art and beliefs. Join us for a wide range of events, including debates, one-on-one conversations, participatory workshops and performances in venues throughout the city. Use the code PEN14 (use PEN2014 for events at The Public Theater) and receive a 20 percent discount on most events. www.worldvoicesfestival.org