Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Barry Hannah

Barry Hannah died yesterday. His fiction was some of the first stuff that really blew me away, that made me want to dig into weirdness and see what would come out of it. I read Airships in an undergraduate class at Vanderbilt and just went nuts for a couple of years, reading everything he had written, always being amazed at how much wildness he could allow into his fiction while still controlling it without any visible effort.
Barry came to the Sewanee Writers' Conference for many years and his readings were always the highlight of the conference for me. I heard him read "Testimony of Pilot". I heard him read "Constant Pain in Tuscaloosa." I heard him read "That's True". I made tapes of these readings and would listen to them in my car over and over.
One of the first years I was on staff at the conference, I got to read and, right after I finished my story, I walked off the stage and Barry made a beeline for me, a super-intense look on his face. I went numb because I thought, "Barry Hannah is coming up to me to tell me that I am a good writer and to keep it up." Barry walked up to me, put his hand on my shoulder, and said, "Tony, I have broken my glasses and I would really appreciate it if you could find me a little piece of copper wire so I can fix them." So I got Barry Hannah a little piece of copper wire. "You're a saint, Tony" he said when I gave it to him.
When we found out that Leigh Anne was pregnant, she said that I could pick out the name. My two choices were Captain America Wilson ("We'll call him Cap," I told her) and Geronimo Rex Wilson ("We'll call him Rex," I told her). Leigh Anne then told me that she would pick the first name and I'd pick the middle name. That worked out, but, damn, I wish I'd stayed with Geronimo Rex Wilson.


Joe said...

Enjoyed your anecdote. Digging up Airships now, Tony.

Molly Gaudry said...

Just stopping by to say, Thanks for sharing this here.

Anonymous said...

great story, Kevin, cracked me up at 330 a.m.

"Tony, I have broken my glasses and I would really appreciate it if you could find me a little piece of copper wire so I can fix them."

TN-Tanuki said...

Yeah, man, it made me real sad to hear of his passing. I wish I'd gotten to hear him read or be taught by him. You're all lucky SOBs. Thanks for this. I posted something yesterday about him on Metafilter, if you're interested: http://www.metafilter.com/89697/Farewell-Captain-Maximus


Drew Johnson said...


Enjoyed the piece. I heard him read "Two Gone Over" at Sewanee in 04. Until then, I had never really paid that particular story much attention--now it's one of my favorites.

He was just such a generous guy.

Juliana said...

When I saw Barry had died, my first thought was, "oh no!" Somewhere around my tenth thought, I got to, "Poor Barry. He just needed a little piece of copper wire."

Heather said...

I'm sorry for your loss. I wasn't familiar with his work, but it's obvious that it (and he) was meaningful for you.