This past Wednesday, my good friend and fellow writer Jared Leising asked me why, on this blog, I had only posted a picture of Barry Hannah in memoriam. Truth was, I had no words. I learned of Barry Hannah’s death on Monday from my wife. I was working against a tight deadline and she called to tell me the news. The work to be done did not go well. I was devastated in a way I hadn’t been since my own grandfather died years ago. I’ve admired many writers in my time, but Barry Hannah was the top dog, the one I found oppressively influential in the best way. When I first read Airships, it knocked me on my ass. After that, everything, every sentence I wrote, I wanted to ring like Hannah’s. I wanted it to course through the brain with an electric charge More so than Hemingway, more so than Ray Carver, Barry Hannah had a profound impact on me. Because Barry Hannah taught me that literature could be music and that it was okay to be mad-drunk on language and still love a good story. There are many writers in the world, some of them great, but very few possessed by genius. Barry was a genius, it was something completely out of his control. I couldn’t think of anything to say about his death except “Fuck. I can’t believe Barry Hannah is dead.” And I still can’t. Other have written beautiful tributes to the man and his work. The only thing I can think of to do is honor him by reprinting some of my favorite sentences from Airships…
Her husband was an intellectual in real estate. He was such an intellectual that he never sold anything.
I am so rich. I am so important. My wife knows this.
I’d decided I was going to quit fucking around and be a Christian.
He calls himself JIM, I mean loud and significantly, like that.
I got to get back to work and get dulled out again. I got to be a man again. You can’t walk around the house drinking coffee and beer all day, thinking about her taking her brassiere off.
“Do me right now, Vince!” she screams. “It’s the only thing that makes sense.” Well, I flung in and tried.
The rest of the day I just lay around and swore. I didn’t even get a beer out of the fridge. After you’ve drunk and hundred and fifty thousand Falstaffs, the taste goes on you.
I had to call back this yell that was coming out of my throat. It was a yell that if it had come out would’ve been the weirdest sound I ever made.
Last year I turned thirty-three years old and, raised a Baptist, I had a sense of being Jesus ad coming to something decided in my life–because we all know Jesus was crucified at thirty-three. It had all seemed especially important, what you do in this year, and holy with meaning.