Farewell, Captain Maximus!
March 2, 2010 12:27 PM   Subscribe

RIP Barry Hannah Author Barry Hannah, whose fiction was laced with dark humor and populated by hard-drinking Southerners, died Monday at his home in Oxford, Miss. He was 67.

I'm very bummed by this news. Hannah was a true original. Maud Newton has some terrific links as does Wikipedia.
posted by Francis7 (16 comments total) 5 users marked this as a favorite

Oh gosh. I am greatly saddened. This man. I went to New York and lost my wallet and was stuck sweaty and grimy on the Lower East side with no food for two days but luckily I had Airships and enough light to read by. You always think his sentences have stopped moving and then they look back at you and wink. It's a shame we won't have any more of them.

posted by voronoi at 12:47 PM on March 2, 2010

I am very sad to hear this. A few years ago I was offered a chance to have lunch him with while passing through Oxford, Miss., and had to turn it down. He was a tremendous writer and much overlooked; also - for this foreigner - living proof that the south of the US is more various than we tend to think. One story that attached itself to him over the years was that he once pulled a gun on a class of creative writing students, though I'm told he was far too gentlemanly to have done such a thing.
posted by Mocata at 1:25 PM on March 2, 2010

I have several of his books. One of my favorite short stories--"Water Liars" was written by the man.

Excellent, funny, colorful writer. :-(
posted by thisperon at 2:03 PM on March 2, 2010

He wrote a short piece about ice storms that I especially liked. In it, he described a brutal storm hitting Oxford:

"Next door, an 80-foot tree fell on a neighbor woman's Mercedes, the fetish of her life. She came out into the driveway wailing as I've never heard a white person wail. But you see a whole tree go over like that, and your grip on the universe goes. A small mob of slackers came down the block and stood around the big tree over the Mercedes. They grinned, sort of worshiping the event. But the woods running down a hill to the east went into an exploding mutual collapse too much like the end of the world, and everyone fled back inside.

All these old trees were like family in the act of dying, their agony was more terrible than the storm itself. We had been confident, even arrogant, with them around us, I realized. They'd been comforting brothers and sisters. Now the town was suddenly half as tall."

Now the town was suddenly half as tall, indeed.
posted by william_boot at 2:21 PM on March 2, 2010 [2 favorites]

posted by vibrotronica at 2:30 PM on March 2, 2010

There's also a story about him using that pistol to drain the water out of his rain-filled convertible after a storm.

"I am a dragon. America the beautiful, like you will never know".

posted by micturator at 2:31 PM on March 2, 2010

One of the greats. Dark, brilliant, surreal and killer fuckin' hilarious.

God damn.

" I am going to die to love."*


Love too Long - Airships (collection)
posted by Skygazer at 2:44 PM on March 2, 2010

Bleh...I'm an idiot.

" I am going to die to love."*

It's actually: " I am going to die from love."*

* and it's the final line from the short story Love too Long in Airships.

posted by Skygazer at 2:50 PM on March 2, 2010

“The canned dream of the South is something I’ve resisted my entire career; it disgusts me,” Hannah said. “And being Southern isn’t always a graceful adjective; it’ll kill you sometimes. Often, it’s shorthand for ‘Don’t bother reading this because it’s just gonna be a lot of porches and banjos.'"

If there's any justice after life, Barry and Willie Morris and Larry Brown are in a bar somewhere holding court one more time.
posted by gordie at 3:39 PM on March 2, 2010 [2 favorites]

Aw hell. Bad news indeed. 'Yonder Stands Your Orphan' is one of my favorite pieces of over-written logorrhea ever produced, and I'm sure he was just getting better and better.

I spent some time with Barry at a writer's conference 7, 8 summers ago and he was a fantastic and quotable person at all times--kind and weird and hilarious. He was sober, I think, and it confused the shit out me, but he smoked and had a motorcycle and a pretty lady with him.

Basically he had the most enviable life i could imagine as a 25 year old writer, and to this day there's no-one i'd rather be when i grow up, or not.

posted by Potomac Avenue at 3:58 PM on March 2, 2010

Dragged fighting from his tomb.

posted by Kinbote at 5:08 PM on March 2, 2010

It's probably been at least a decade since I last read Airships but it seems like half of it is still crystal clear in my memory: "His name is Christ, this muscle and heart striding under me", "We were both crucified by the truth", "He made the white flower..."

What a great writer, gone way too soon.
posted by newmoistness at 7:07 PM on March 2, 2010 [1 favorite]

So for a serious reader who is really surprised that he's never heard of Hannah and who feels like he's gonna love his stuff based on all the bookblog posts/obits he's been reading, Airships is the book I should be looking to pick up?
posted by nevercalm at 12:14 AM on March 3, 2010

One story that attached itself to him over the years was that he once pulled a gun on a class of creative writing students

Lord, this story followed him. I must've heard this story a dozen times over the last twenty-five years and every time it took place at a different institution. AFAIK, it never happened, but it is characteristic of the kind of craziness Hannah had a reputation for in his youthful drinking days.

Barry Hannah: one of the good dead ones.
posted by octobersurprise at 5:54 AM on March 3, 2010

AFAIK, it never happened

Now that I've read gordie's piece, I see that Wells Tower addresses the gun-on-a-creative-writing-class story:
"At the University of Alabama, where he had a tenured teaching post, he brought a revolver to his writing workshop and twirled the empty chambers before the class by way of explaining his theory of a short story’s six movements. The deed got him fired."
Hm. I'll take his word for it, but having heard so many variations on that story over the years, I confess that I'm still somewhat skeptical.
posted by octobersurprise at 6:10 AM on March 3, 2010

nevercalm: Airships is an excellent collection of short stories, and would be a fine starting point. Geronimo Rex is a wonderful, brilliant novel. Yonder Stands Your Orphan, his final novel, is also very good.

Barry was much better with adjectives than I am.
posted by gordie at 3:48 PM on March 3, 2010

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