Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Barry Hannah, the Playboy Dinosaurs and the Southern Baroque

There's an art to extinction. Reading Barry Hannah, it doesn't seem like that much time has passed since he was active, alive, and working, but how out-of-date and slapdash, inconsistent, drunken, hilarious and surprisingly tender are his stories? Tooling around the internet, one notices the cult of personality that seemed to creep after him.  Guns, motorcycles, booze, etc.  Fun. The bottom line to most of his stories appears to be the ever present author's creed to give the reader a good time, so even in his bad stories, he's knocking himself out to make them entertaining.

There is in this collection an absolutely perfect story, settled in amongst a number of great shorter works, whiz-bang sentences and some fall-apart call-the-editor wheezing notions. Testimony of Pilot may be one of the best paced stories I've ever read.  The details are meted out in Elastic-man prose, the plot is expansive though focused, the images are unique, the characters and the setting are enthralling. It is terrifying to see that story jammed up against some of the other pieces in this collection. 

I came across Hannah as well as some other excellent work through this site: http://gordonlisheditedthis.wordpress.com/2011/05/18/airships-barry-hannah/

Talent spends. Hannah had gobs of the stuff. Reading this collection, I get a sense of its wastes. I also get the sense of the importance of a good editor, someone who can point a writer to the good vein. The other stand-outs were Water Liars, Love Too Long, and Our Secret Home. 

Read Hannah and you get the humanity of all those southern dinosaurs, spitting their epithets and chuckling at the comics in Playboy. Feather those bangs and place this one beside The Bushwhacked Piano for a good time.