Barry Hannah, R.I.P.

I had the privilege of spending a week with Barry Hannah in 2007, at a summer workshop at Amherst College. Though his love of storytelling was still richly evident, it was clear his failing health was most on his mind. Drink and cancer had ravaged him, and the financial fallout was terrible. Like Orson Welles, who needed to pontificate about cheap domestic wines to pay the rent, Hannah joked that he only did these workshops for the money. Still, I was charmed by his raucous sense of humor and his reverence for his literary forbears. After enjoying brief monologues on the craft of fiction, I got to lunch with him and talk about Faulkner and John Grisham and Larry Brown, and Donna Tartt, his hatred of the label southernwriting. He had an amazing, playful way with words. His sentences and characters were wild and fun and irreverent. I have never encountered voices like those in Airships or Geronimo Rex. The horror and grotesque humor of Yonder Stands Your Orphan still haunts me. On Monday, America lost a truly original voice. Read the NYT obit here and an appreciation at Vanity Fair.
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