Barry Hannah

Barry Hannah will leave a gaping hole in literature.  His influence on my own work is strangely subtle and roundabout (I know him more for his influence on others–especially Tom Franklin–than for anything else), but when I think about the stories I’ve read, I realize how deeply effective they were.  For all the brashness of his style, his content sneaks in from between the lines, like a splinter you didn’t realize you’d picked up or where you could have got it, but then for no reason, when you’re nowhere near anything that could ever leave a splinter, you discover one in your fingertip.  I’m reading a story or working on my own, and I think, what should this sound like?  How should I go about this?  And there’s the memory of Hannah’s work, the fuller impact of which is only now apparent, and even now I know I haven’t felt all there is to feel in the story.  But it’s okay–he’s sometimes hard to read at first because the truth in his fiction is so sharp and glaring, but he’s the kind of writer it’s easy to go back to, once you’ve adjusted.  Best of all, he makes you feel that great writing is possible.  A lot of the writers I admire most frustrate me sometimes, because I read them and I think, God, I’ll never be this good.  Hannah’s that good too, but he goes about his fiction in a reassuring way, as if behind each word is a quiet assurance that you just need to keep at it, that writing is work but you can make it work for you.

Godspeed, Barry Hannah.  And thanks for the fiction you left us.

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