World, March 3, 2010 (Pal Telegraph,Nytimes) -Barry Hannah, a writer who found wide acclaim with wild, darkly comic short stories and novels set in a phantasmagoric South moving at warp speed, died on Monday at his home in Oxford, Miss. He was 67.
The cause was a heart attack, his son Barry Jr. said.
Mr. Hannah staked his claim to the Gothic territory mapped out by William Faulkner and Flannery O'Connor in his first novel, "Geronimo Rex" (1972), a high-octane coming-of-age tale set in the fictional town of Dream of Pines, La.
"That book was like a bolt of lightning," Morgan Entrekin, the publisher of Grove/Atlantic, said in an interview Tuesday. "It was gonzo Southern fiction that opened you to a whole new way of writing. It was fresh, original and dangerous, in a way."
Reviewing the book for The New York Times, the novelist Jim Harrison called Mr. Hannah "one of those young writers who is brilliantly drunk with words and could at gunpoint write the life story of a telephone pole."
The short story collection "Airships," published in 1978, confirmed Mr. Hannah's budding reputation as a daring stylist and a loose-limbed adventurer in an absurdist South of his own imagining: a passionate and violent land teeming with loud drunks, confused war veterans and ardent, uneasy good ol' boys. Most of the stories were first published by Gordon Lish in Esquire.
"He played an important role in introducing Southern literature to postmodernism at a time when Southern writing was trying to live up to and move beyond the great achievements of the modernist Southern Renaissance authors, especially William Faulkner," Martyn Bone, the editor of "Perspectives on Barry Hannah" (University Press of Mississippi, 2007), wrote in an e-mail message on Tuesday.
"Many of his stories or novels feature scenes in which Faulkner's style, characters, or subject matter are satirized or parodied," Mr. Bone added. "He was able to play fast and loose with Southern literary tradition and its subject matter in a way that some other writers were not."
Howard Barry Hannah was born on April 23, 1942, in Meridian, Miss., and grew up in Clinton, a small town near Jackson. After earning a bachelor's degree in English from Mississippi College in 1964, he enrolled at the University of Arkansas, where he received a master's degree in 1966 and the university's first M.F.A. degree in fiction in 1967.
While writing, he taught literature and creative writing at several colleges, including Clemson University and the University of Alabama, and was at various times a writer in residence at Middlebury College in Vermont, the University of Iowa and the University of Montana at Missoula.
In 1982 he became a writer in residence at the University of Mississippi, and later was the director of its M.F.A. and creative writing program. His many students over the years included the writers Bob Shacochis, Donna Tartt, Cynthia Shearer and Wells Tower.
Mr. Hannah's first two marriages ended in divorce. In addition to his son Barry, known as Po, of Knoxville, Tenn., he is survived by his wife, Susan; a sister, Dorothy Kitchings of Jackson; a brother, Bob, of Destin, Fla.; a foster brother, Ralph Marston of Richardson, Texas; another son, Ted, of Leeds, Ala.; a daughter, Lee McDonald, of Tuscaloosa, Ala.; and three grandchildren.
Mr. Hannah's exuberant, high-energy narratives tended toward the picaresque and, as often as not, crashed and burned in spectacular fashion. "Nightwatchmen" (1973), a horror-mystery tale in an almost hysterically comic vein, exhibited the author's alarming tendency to wander, wobble and then fall apart - what John Updike, in a review of "Geronimo Rex," called "accelerating incoherence." Over the years, such performances recurred, in novels jammed with incident and infatuated with language, like "The Tennis Handsome" (1983) and "Hey Jack!" (1987).
Mr. Hannah himself admitted to being a short story writer first, with an imagination calibrated to the short burst. "The old man off 40 years of morphine was fascinated by guns," begins the short story "Two Things, Dimly, Were Going at Each Other." "He was also a foe of dogs everywhere. They were too servile, too slavering, too helplessly pack-bent, when not treacherous. The cat was the thing. Coots cut at the evening with his cane and wanted to ‘see a death' in the big city."
Plot and character mattered less to him than the ripe bit of regional speech, the fraught incident, the startling metaphor, the ingeniously shaped sentence. "I am doomed to be a more lengthy fragmentist," he said in a 2001 interview with Bomb." In my thoughts, I don't ever come on to plot in a straightforward way."
The essential Hannah, most critics agreed, could be found in his story collections, "Captain Maximus" (1985), "Bats Out of Hell" (1993) and "High Lonesome" (1996), and more fitfully in his eight novels.
Over the years, the manic energy of early novels like "Ray" (1980) subsided a bit. "Boomerang" (1989), a slim, autobiographical novel, exhibited a chastened, wistful tone new to Mr. Hannah's writing. "The old guys are me now, is the horror," his narrator writes. "I'll wander up and get registered and vote."
The outlaws and oddballs of "Yonder Stands Your Orphan," in thrall to a sinister character named Man Mortimer, earn the author's pity. Hell-raisers in their day, they have lived on into a strangely soft twilight.
"There's a world of kindness and tenderness that surrounds me and my friends in this little town of Oxford," Mr. Hannah told Bomb, "and I would be a liar if I left it out."