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on July 4, 2011
Other reviews here suggest that Hannah is still controversial. Unlike, say, readers of Samuel Beckett or Ben Marcus, with their reputations for difficulty, readers who buy without sampling Hannah are often in for a shock. He's always had trouble finding his audience because he's such a singularity: Southern, yes, but not easy like Flannery O'Connor or stylistically elegant like stream-of-consciousness Faulkner, he's a creative, twisty wordsmith while being down home and earthy, alien to most Lofty Northeastern postgraduate tastes, possessing an essentially comic vision when timeless literature supposedly calls for solemnity.

Years ago I was hooked by "Airships." Philip Roth's blurb convinced me to buy the book, and the many notable tributes that followed suggest that Hannah is a writer's writer: the more you value originality and inventiveness, the more you'll be impressed. I read everything he published thereafter.

So I bought this compilation only for the three stories previously unpublished. They were worth it: late Hannah was the best ever. Some writers were obviously influenced by him but he was, and always will be, sui generis. He can slow your reading speed, but every sentence is remarkable, and there is no filler at all. My favorites are here, "High Water Railers" and "Get Some Young," to name two. I would recommend "Long, Last, Happy" to readers who want a great introduction to this richly American original.
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on January 29, 2011
Hannah was one of God's greatest gifts to language. Hannah twisted and turned it made it astonish, made it hilarious and grotesquely real. No, he's not often easy reading. He might even be, probably is, an acquired taste. He didn't write page turners. He is too astonishing, page by page, too hilarious, to tell a straight narrative. He was the very best at what he did and I wish he were describing it because words fail me. The only way to know him is to read him, and there's no one more worth reading. He was the great magician of the sentence.
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on April 1, 2013
"Long, Last, Happy", Barry Hannah's posthumously published collection of short stories, thirty-one in all, comprises a fitting memorial to the man who would be Faulkner. Was he that good? Probably not. Was he as important? Certainly to many writers. Their tributes to him as teacher, mentor, friend and drinking buddy, collected by Oxford American for its Spring 2011 issue (#72) make the case. Donna Tartt said this about his voice: "His ear for language was so pure and true that his writing classes were more like master classes in music."

How did he come by that "true and pure" voice? "I write out of a need for lives and language . . . . I write to share" he wrote in an early piece for O. A. (#20). Coming of age in Clinton, Mississippi, "the little old tiny-headed women . . . established the tone of my world . . . . I picked up the rhythms of Scripture for my tales, but it was mystery and sin that had me."

True enough. The stories in "Long, Last, Happy" are soaked in sin and mystery, pure and true. "Uncle High Lonesome" tells the story of the young narrator's admiration for his Uncle Peter (for whom he was named). Badgered constantly by his wife, "a fastidious and abrasive country woman . . . a hag of unnecessary truths at family gatherings," the Uncle takes refuge in his hunting and fishing trips with his nephew (and with a woman in town).The young boy needs and admires his uncle's manly traits, skills his own father lacked.. "He could make money and drive (too slowly) but the processes of life eluded him." Not that he didn't love his dad. "I've never met such a humble pilgrim of his own country as my father."

If Hannah had no other story to his credit, "Uncle High Lonesome would guarantee his place in American letters. The fact is that there are several more as good, or nearly as good. In "High-Water Railers," Melanie, "her skin still fine for a woman in her seventies" takes a plate of cookies down to the pier for the old duffers gathered there for the morning's fishing. Sensing that they may see her as cut above them socially, she refuses to be put on a pedestal. "I'm not that innocent lads . . . I cavorted. I was a looker."

"Mother Rooney Unscrolls the Hurt," one of the stories Hannah is admired for, tells the life of a good Catholic woman who spent her widow years operating a worse-for-wear boarding house for men, most of them down on their luck if not out of it altogether. They are her boys, each with his place in her affections, each forgiven for ultimately leaving her to her memories. As she scrolls back through her recollections to her family years she comes to the time her only child, a boy, "didn't even know he had his man's business between his legs." Once he caught on, he and his mother referred to it as "Billy." "He would want to know which neighbors had Billy. He asked if the air, clowns, toy soldiers and Cream of Wheat had Billy. I told him no, and we divided the world like that, with Billy and no Billy."

Not all the stories are that good, but none of them are truly bad, even if they seem to have been written when the author was not at his best. Put another way, Hannah at half speed is better than most short story writers at full tilt.

End note. Hannah, brought down by cancer and the accumulated effects of his hard living early days, died of a heart attack at age 67. He learned just the weekend before he died that this book, aptly titled as it turned out, was about to be published.
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on December 12, 2015
If you like books about sex perverts, bums, drug addicts, every manner of trashy deviancy, this book is for you. The characters are freaks. Some have ability for success but throw it away for a drug-filled, alcoholic, sex-crazed life in the gutter with no hope or desire to get out. I read three of the short stories, started on a fourth, but could not stand to read more. The stories are sickening and gave me nightmares. Example, one drug-addicted whore locked the writer in an S&M handcuff and chains while she lay in the cheap motel bath tub sticking large sharp objects into her liver. If you find this charming, then buy the book.
His writing style is good, but his characters are without any value, they are the dregs.
So much of Southern fiction is about freaks, and this book is among the freakiest. Many Southern writers pride themselves on writing about deviates, and Barry Hannah is one of the most disgusting. His writing style is interesting, too bad he had nothing but trash to write. So many southern writers have written such trash that it makes me wonder if people in the South have more than their share of deviate freaks and failures.
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on September 24, 2011
Barry is always great- sadly deceased-his characters are strange but relatable and always win me over in the end- what is it about the underdogs, the forgotten, the lovely that are so endearing to a soul? Because they are all of us. Here's one for the underdogs!
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on February 27, 2014
Hannah is recognized as a major contributor in the Southern writing racket. He's not my favorite, but what do I know? He seems to have been a very charismatic, generally likeable fellow, from watching an interview on Youtube
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on January 21, 2012
The late Barry Hannah was one of contemporary America's more unique writers. Witty and profound, his stories have a wild
quality, as if the mind and body have been let loose to wreak havoc yet still embrace sentimentality. Like Faulkner, Hannah
loved the past of the humid South, and knew it was never really past, yet his stories are anchored in the sweaty present,
and his heart is always raw and dodging more unexpected blows.
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on April 4, 2013
I read this book because it was required for an advanced modern literature class. I didn't think I would like it but really enjoyed the content. Amazon definitely has the best prices and super fast shipping. Thanks again for a great Amazon purchase!
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on January 14, 2014
Barry Hannah had a soul as deep as they come. His nimbleness and mastery with language is really special. With his humor I am reminded of my times reading the too few in number of texts of Flannery O'Connor and John Kennedy O'Toole; as well makes me think of Bill Hicks. I have now found my favorite author.
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on January 20, 2012
Received in good order. The late Barry Hannah wrote well, and these stories are a generous sampling of his career work. He will be missed.
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