Sunday, January 16, 2011

Books: Airships, by Barry Hannah

After finishing Proust, I thought that this book of short stories by Southern "writer's writer" Hannah would be a good antidote. And it did its duty in that it was blunt, masculine, and violent. The first few stories, especially Love Too Long, really did me. Hannah's stuttering staccato skips the superficial surface of a deep pain: "All I can do is move from chair to chair with a cigarette. I wear shades. I can't read a magazine." Then, "I want to rip her arm off. I want to sleep in her uterus with my foot hanging out. Some nights she lets me lick her ears and knees. I can't talk about it." Damn, he is good.

But then, he goes on. There are these weird Civil War stories, about rebel soldiers on horses killing people. There are racial epithets. There's a guy who kills a girl in a graveyard. It's dark. He pushes me too far. And he is also sort of dull. When he's on, he's on, but he is not always on. He is not the writer's writer he has been described to be. He is just a regular writer, who one time out of ten really hits the mark. Read his best ones anthologized with other middling writers' bests; he's not a Flannery O'Connor, warranting your sustained and concentrated dedication.

1 comment:

Charlie Cornflakes said...

Airships is definitely in my top 5 fav. story collections. I've read those stories more than once. The stories in Airships are of those that get better with every re-read. I hear about a lot of books that have made people laugh aloud but have only made me snort. Airships made me laugh. You never quite know where Hannah will lead you or what his sentences might say but when you find out, its a whole lot of fun.