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Long, Last, Happy: New and Collected Stories Hardcover – December 1, 2010

4.0 out of 5 stars 17 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

Amazon Best Books of the Month, December 2010: The real excitement of a well-done fireworks production comes not so much from a single boom and flash--anybody can make a big noise--but from the way the explosions pile up on each other, building and surprising and orchestrated to awe. And so it is with a Barry Hannah story. Every sentence--every sentence, he didn't take breathers--is packed full of explosives and then set to detonate, one after the other. What makes them so spectacular? There's the volatile mix of earthy slang and formal diction, and the uncanny rhythm of speech and thought, each note hit exactly. But most of all they are saturated with desire. Everyone in Hannah's stories wants, wants desperately, and they do so at such a pitch that you can understand why Hannah, a fine novelist too, was better known for his intense shorter tales, the best of which are collected for the first time, following his untimely death last March, in Long, Last, Happy. Rural murderers and fishermen and lovers, bitter and/or callow dilettantes, soldiers in many wars, sorrowful husbands and wrathful wives: Hannah channels them all, under a philosophy confessed to by one of his own narrators, "I have license to exaggerate, as I have just done, but many would be horrified to know how little." --Tom Nissley

From Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. This posthumous collection includes four new stories and shows why Hannah's regarded as one of the best. Hannah's wit is caustic, shot through with social commentary and gleefully interspersed with bursts of slapstick comedy. One of his best-known early stories, "Mother Rooney Unscrolls the Hurt," still holds up more than 30 years later, with the landlady in her dilapidated house, lying crumpled at the bottom of the stairs. Hannah easily links themes, characters, and places--particularly his longtime home of Oxford, Miss., and its flagship school, Ole Miss--without drawing unnecessary attention to connections. The new stories--"Fire Water," "Sick Soldier at Your Door," "Lastward, Deputy James," and "Out-tell the Teller"--can be read as a set of interlocking narratives, each presenting a different angle on a series of arson attacks on small churches. The subject matter may be serious, but Hannah never abandons his sly grin--just as he was able to shift, mid-story, between boyhood hijinks and the looming threat of Vietnam in "Testimony of Pilot." This collection reminds that Hannah, even in death, will always be "on the black and chrome Triumph, riding right into your face." (Dec.) (c)
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 464 pages
  • Publisher: Grove Press; First Edition edition (December 1, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0802119689
  • ISBN-13: 978-0802119681
  • Product Dimensions: 9.2 x 6.4 x 1.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.7 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (17 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,166,042 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
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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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
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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"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.
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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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By Syd on September 24, 2011
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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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