Barry Hannah is that writer for me. The one I have memories reading, whose books I’ll near always take down from the shelves when asked for recommendations. I remember first falling for Ray, Hannah’s slim and astounding novel from 1980. I was traveling through Texas, it was a tattered, peach hardcover loaned out from the library, and is, to this day, the best book that I’ve ever read. I remember being back in Michigan, at the bookshop where I worked, and plowing through his short stories during lunch. I remember hearing news of his death last March, reading his obituary in the New York Times; they described him as an enemy of all dogs everywhere.
This past November, Grove published Long, Last, Happy, a loving tribute to the late Southern master that pulls together some of his best writing—from his formative years as a student in the mid-sixties to major releases like Airships and High Lonesome to the unfinished manuscripts he left behind at his passing. The results are, what else? Grotesque and hilarious and giddily haywire; writing that dwells in the shadows of Southern Gothic literature and then, at the turn of a phrase, transcends the genre altogether.
In other words, an excellent retrospective of an exceptional American writer. A first-class portrait of a a mile-high storyteller whose maniac command of the English language always leaves me dizzy. –Matthew