Mar 02 2010
My father accidentally introduced me to Barry Hannah in the mid-70s when he bought Hannah’s first novel, the Faulkner award winning Geronimo Rex. For some random reason I read it — we never discussed the book, my father never recommended it or even mentioned it, it just appeared on a shelf in the bookcase and I read it.
It is one of a few books which makes me laugh out loud, a book I push on people to read over and over as one of the most wickedly funny examples of Southern American writing ever penned. A tale of coming of age in 1960s Mississippi, it actually more like Animal House on paper — a very sophomoric story of three misfits rooming together off campus at Ole Miss.
In 1977 I was accepted into a writing class taught by Gordon Lish, fiction editor at Knopf and short story editor at Esquire. He championed the new wave of post-modern writers like Don DeLillo, Raymond Carver, and Hannah. In one of the first classes he handed out copies of Hannah’s amazing short story anthology, Airships and read out loud the extremely short story, “Coming Close to Donna.” I was captivated.
Barry Hannah never broke out as a best selling author, nor did he go on to achieve great things like others of his generation. But he did write beautifully, crafting his sentences with the precision of a Haiku. He was earthy, his humor was located south of his belt, but he was entertaining as could be. I loved his writing.