Barry Hannah’s Long Shadow – by Wells Tower
Big giant kudos to Kevin Sampsell for this one. I think I saw it once a while back, but it must have been before I knew who Wells Tower is, and also perhaps before my Hannah-love had reached its present feverpitch. In any case, I’d forgotten about this profile of Hannah that Tower wrote for Garden & Gun magazine, until Kevin posted it on facebook the other day. Good, good man. Also, when you click through, the article isn’t as long as it looks. (Would that it were longer!) The last few screens are Hannah’s short story, “Water Liars.”
Barry Hannah’s fame is of a peculiar kind. Ask people about him, and either they’ll say they’ve never heard the name (despite his nominations for both the National Book Award and the Pulitzer Prize) or they’ll get a feverish, ecstatic look before they seize you by the lapels and start reeling off cherished passages of his work. Echoes of familiar Southern tropes appear in Hannah’s novels and short stories: outlandish violence, catfish, desperate souls driven half mad by lust and drink. But in Hannah’s fiction the South becomes an alien place, narrated in a dark comic poetry you’ve never heard before, peopled with characters that outflank and outwit the flyspecked conventions of Southern lit. A Civil War scribe whose limbs—save his writing arm—are shot off. A serial killer who looks like Conway Twitty and makes his victim suck a football (“moan around on it some”) before beheading him. A Wild West widow who lashes a personal ad to a buzzard in hopes of finding a man. In Hannah’s panoramas, you’ll find hints of William Faulkner, rumbles of Charles Bukowski, and the tongue-in-cheek grotesquerie of David Lynch. But the fierce inventiveness of Hannah’s prose makes him something sui generis entirely, a writer who renders the project of comparison a farce.