Friday, March 05, 2010

Barry Hannah, 1942–2010

Barry Hannah, novelist and story writer out of Mississippi, has died of a heart attack in Oxford, Miss. He was sixty-seven.

Hannah started fast with two bangup novels, Geronimo Rex (1972) and Ray (1981), and a collection of influential stories, Airships (1978), before he was forty. After that, he seemed—at least to me—to be running on creative fumes. His later books recycled characters and plot devices, and he never seemed to outgrow a young man’s fascination with horrific pointless violence.

When Ray was published to great fanfare (in the New York Times Book Review, Benjamin DeMott characterized it as “the funniest, weirdest, soul-happiest work of fiction by a genuinely young American author” that he had read “in a long while”), Hannah looked every inch his generation’s outstanding writer. He surrendered that title when his development stalled.

The first three works are still worth reading, although they no longer stand out as they once did, but the real question hanging over his life is what became of Hannah’s early promise?


dglen said...

Don't forget his 2nd novel, Nightwatchmen, before Airships & Ray.

D. G. Myers said...

Didn’t forget it. Not fond of it.