There Are Dry Tiny Horses Running in My Veins: Mourning Barry Hannah

Below are a few eulogies, remembrances, encomia, etc. for the late Barry Hannah. No introduction needed. Thank you, Barry.

Jeremiah Chamberlin (editor at Fiction Writers Review):

I experienced both sides of Barry’s honesty when I was a student of his in 2003 at the Sewanee Writers’ Conference. The day of my workshop, we moved around the table in usual fashion–what’s working, what isn’t. Janet Peery was co-teaching the session, and among the group were writers such as Ben Percy, Lisa Lerner, Dave Schuman, Dave Koch, Forrest Anderson, and John Struloeff. I was giddy to be in the room with one of my literary heroes. And while the others were offering feedback on my writing, I stole the occasional glance to see how Barry was reacting. Most of the time he spent flipping fairly idly through my pages. So perhaps I shouldn’t have been a surprise when, upon his turn to speak, he began gutting the opening paragraph of the prologue to the novel I’d been working on. Sentence by sentence, word by word, he worked like a butcher, cutting back the fat. Let’s just say that there wasn’t much meat left when he got down to the bone. Or, rather, he showed me that there hadn’t been much muscle to begin with. Would it be too much to say I felt eviscerated along with my work?

Yet it wasn’t cruel. It was honest. And when the furnace of my face cooled I saw that he was mostly right.

Continue reading “There Are Dry Tiny Horses Running in My Veins: Mourning Barry Hannah”

What’s Up, Rumpus?

Steve Almond, by way of elegy, offers up a reprint of a piece from his book Not That You Asked. “Heart Radical: The Strange, True Flight of Airships.”

So that’s what Airships was about for me: coming out of hiding as an emotionalist. Realizing that, amid the vanities and elisions of the Southern literary tradition, there was a deep, Christian possibility: that confession might actually cure, that love might act as a revolutionary force, that the chaos of one’s past and present, if fully experienced, might portend some glowing future.

Also, Sam Lipsyte interviewed by David Goodwillie.

Rumpus: Beyond the masturbation issues, Milo Burke is a real sad sack. He keeps fucking up, and he’s very aware of it, and yet he is trying. He’s not giving up on life.

Lipsyte: That’s right. I think you’ve got it. He’s got problems, but he’s definitely putting in the effort. It’s just not clear where the effort should be directed. He’s in over his head.

Also^2, Elizabeth Bastos shares the Last Book [She] Loved, which is The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao (WARNING: review includes spoilers).

Barry.

First lines of Barry Hannah’s I ever read:

When I am run down and flocked around by the world, I go down to Farte Cove off the Yazoo River and take my beer to the end of the pier where the old liars are still snapping and wheezing at one another. The line-up is always different, because they’re always dying out or succumbing to constipation, etc., whereupon they go back to the cabins and wait for a good day when they can some out and lie again, leaning on the rail with coats full of bran cookies. The son of the man the cove was named for it often out there. He pronounces his name Fartay, with a great French stress on the last syllable. Otherwise you might laugh at his history or ignore it in favor of the name as it’s spelled on the sign.

I’m glad it’s not my name.

Barry Hannah being interviewed by Don Swaim.

I like Barry Hannah a lot. Heard a thing. Sad if true.

UPDATE:

Yeah. Looks like it’s true.

Reading Ray Backwards (guest-post by Alec Niedenthal)

HannahB-Ray-00If Gary Lutz does it–and he says he does–I don’t know how he does. In an interview with Michael Kimball, Lutz says, “Maybe part of the explanation of why I write the way I write has to do with the way I sometimes read. I sometimes read a book from back to front, sentence by sentence-a practice that, as one might imagine, can give a completely different disposition to a book.” I’ve been trying to read Barry Hannah’s slim marvel, “Ray,” back to front. Sentence by sentence. It won’t work. A book like “Ray” has a certain velocity, speed, force. You’d think that because most sentences here are jewels, are the sharpest of diamonds, that one could isolate them and pick them apart from the bone outward. But it’s become clear to me that Hannah’s sentences sing precisely because they are deeply embedded in a system of voice which, however fragmented the narrative structure of “Ray,” is a system, and therefore, to my mind, necessary.

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Creative Writing 101

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(for previous installments in this series, click here)

WORK DISCUSSED THIS WEEK: “Two Boys” by Lorrie Moore & “Water Liars by Barry Hannah

Tuesday, 9/29 – “Two Boys.” I’m not a huge Lorrie Moore fan. I don’t dislike her, but I’ve had Birds of America taught to me several times and it just never…grabs me. I think the best experience I’ve had reading Moore was in David Gates’s lit seminar at New School when I was an MFA student. And even at that, what I mostly remember is David’s enthusiasm for “People Like That Are the Only People Here: Canonical Babbling in Peed Onk.” That, and a single line from the story that’s always struck me as incredibly beautiful and haunting. A blood clot discovered in a baby’s diaper is described as looking like “a tiny mouse heart packed in snow.” Beyond that, I’m content to know she’s out there in the world, making some people very happy. Good for her; good for them.

But a couple summers ago I was teaching a non-credit writing class at the Gotham Writers Workshop, and I was trying to find a way to spice things up.

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Hannah in Harper’s

Here’a a big FYI: the excerpt from Hannah’s novel-in-progress, Sick Soldier at Your Door, which was published in the Winter ’09 issue of Gulf Coast, has been picked up by the “Readings” section of Harper’s. It’s reprinted in the current issue, the one with the Vonnegut short story and the large roundtable with contributions from–among many others–Ben Marcus and Zadie Smith. I guess those are all pretty good reasons to pick the issue up. Actually, Harper’s is one of those magazines you’re better off subscribing to than buying on stands. It’s under 20 bucks for a year subscription, compared to something like 7 bucks per issue if you buy them one at a time. Basically, if you feel like you might want to buy a Harper’s twice in a given year, you’re better off just subscribing, and letting it come right to you.

Dispatches from Captain Maximus (guest posted by Michael Bible)

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

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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.

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

Continue reading “Dispatches from Captain Maximus (guest posted by Michael Bible)”

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.

Paragraphs I Would Probably Stab My Dick To Have Written (1): Barry Hannah

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Geronimo Rex, pg. 142, first full graph:

Other nights Fleece explained to me how he had declared himself–he was going to be a doctor and study how “one suffers in the meat.” “I was always a meatball,” he said. “I’m going to be the best doctor Mississippi ever produced. They’ll bring in some whore whose boyfriend has shot her in the cunt pointblank with a shotgun and alongside her her boyfriend also, who thought he commited suicide putting the last shot into his navel, and I’ll put on my mask, wave my hands with some instruments, and bring them back Romeo and Juliet.”