Friday, March 5, 2010

Barry Hannah

Oh, hell...I really loved Barry Hannah, who died this week at 67. He came up last week in conversation with some other writers, and I found myself semi-drunkenly holding forth about the awesomeness of Airships, and very slightly less so that of Bats Out Of Hell, two excellent and highly idiosyncratic story collections. (I've got first editions of both, suckas!)

Hannah was a writers' writer, a guy who often came up in informal chats with fellow scribblers, sometimes as a guilty or obscure pleasure. He wasn't always good, but he was always interesting, and when he was good, he was superb, in a manner unlike anyone else. He was at times very direct, at others hopelessly baroque; his work vacillated between brilliant comic energy and terrifying violence--or perhaps it was both, all the time.

At Montana, when we were there in the nineties, his brief and chaotic professorial stint was still fresh in some memories (a Bowie knife stabbed into a chalkboard? Brandishing a pistol in a rain-drenched car?!?), but he was gone long before we got there, and neither of us ever met him. (I did meet his daughter in a bar in Tuscaloosa once.) But he has loomed large in my imagination, ever since my college pal Brian O'Keefe lent me a copy of Ray in 1990 or so. It's time I caught up on the stuff I haven't read.

6 comments:

margosita said...

Of all the Barry Hannah memorial posts I've been reading, I think I enjoyed this the most. I love writers who inspire semi-drunk raves.

george said...

Hannah was a master. I keep a stockpile of cheap paperback copies of 'Ray'(I do the same with Johnson's JS) to hand out to new writer friends. 'Ray', 'Bats Out of Hell', and 'Airships' get the most play, but 'Geronimo Rex' is worth every page(and if you don't have time just read the opening where the marching band steams into town), and 'Tennis Handsome' is very weird and fun. Actually, I probably shouldn't call it fun seeing that there's a scene where a sealion rapes a woman. Or maybe that's a nightmare I had. If he didn't write that scene he should of--he certainly had the chops for such ghoulishness.

jrlennon said...

Agreed, all those books are good ones. I heard him on the radio talking about "Yonder stands your orphan" and now I want to read that, too...

As for frightening man/animal action, see Elkin, Stanley, "The making of Ashenden."

mccormick said...

I've got "Yonder" on my bookshelf and haven't read it. Think I'll put it in the summer stack...interesting that the title comes from Dylan's 'It's All Over Now, Baby Blue'(yonder stands your orphan with his gun) and that his new collection is titled 'Sick Soldier At Your Door' which sounds like another line from 'Baby Blue'(All your seasick sailors they are rowing home).

jrlennon said...

Interesting, I would not have made the Hannah-Dylan connection.

he might've had fun sometimes said...

"I'll tell you, you can't get away from people bothering you anymore. People coming by even laughing at what you eating."