Dispatches from Captain Maximus (guest posted by Michael Bible)

Posted by @ 12:20 pm on May 21st, 2009

Michael Bible, a former student of Barry Hannah (and wearing one of the best names around), shares some of his Hannah light:


Zita, an odd and earnest woman in her 60’s, sat in on Barry Hannah’s workshop. She often reeked of gin. She hounded Barry so much about “rules” to writing (something he preached hard against) that he finally caved and wrote out a few things for her about her writing. She photocopied the handwritten “rules” and passed them out to everyone in the class the next week. So when reading this remember they are addressed to her.


1. [Your writing is] in the rut of adjectives and “Life Studies.” In the rut of people who aren’t there.

2. When you tell a story think more in terms of yarn, tale, even whopper. Then tell it subtly. DON’T think of nuance or “interior decoration.”

3. Your characters HAVE to be people of interest. Neither suburban, rural or local “types.” They must be in conflict, with a life or death problem at stake.

4. Pride, dignity, humiliation, wild pones, criminal, impotent watchers of sex (Popeye with the corncob.)

5. Your style should be vivid and memorable, something from the loins, gut, heart and head that is strong even if it is soft. Tell a story naturally. See if you HAVE a voice that has not been trained out of you by other writers, teachers, or even the favored classics of literature. Try being alone and honest very hard. Love your loneliness. Get close to your page. Just START TALKING, as Mark Twain did. He was the first natural voice, he WAS the first truly American writer.

6. In grad workshops your can make QUANTUM LEAPS in your art as you cannot with a piano or saxophone. (Perhaps you can in painting or photography e.g. my own [illegible] where I am never going to be better than an adequate cartoonist or late modern [illegible]. But you cannot WANT to learn, not want to listen to the advice of professional writers. You can just cool your jets and be mediocre the rest of your writing life. RETREAT is what I see happening too much. The adventure is left out. You are afraid of reading into the ACTS of others, you are stuck in mere conciseness. So DO something more and leave complacency—give your men and women something to do, to say, to move, to explode or implode.

This second item is Barry Hannah, Larry Brown and Brad Watson chatting on the radio. I have no idea what it was for. I got it from an old friend of Barry’s. It’s from 1994 and is about an hour long and damn funny. Barry really gets going by the end and Larry is typical badass self.


Michael Bible is the author of the forthcoming chapbooks, “My Second Best Bear Rug” (Paper Hero Press) and “Gorilla Math” (Greying Ghost Press).

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