He has published numerous
novels and short story collections set in the South, but to understand
the writer behind his characters one must delve deeply into that unknown
region of the mind where shadows take form, where the simple and sublime
take on a complexity akin to the human spirit itself.
Hannah was born in Clinton,
Mississippi, on April 23, 1942, and earned a B.A. from Mississippi
College in 1964. In 1966, he earned a Master of Arts degree
from the University of Arkansas; a year later he graduated
with a Master
of Fine Arts in Creative Writing from Arkansas and began teaching
creative writing at Clemson University in South Carolina, where he remained until 1973. During this time,
he earned several impressive awards, including the Bellaman Foundation
Award in Fiction (1970) and the Bread Loaf Fellowship for Writing
(1971). In 1972, Hannah published his first novel, Geronimo Rex,
for which he won the William Faulkner Prize for writing and earned
a nomination for the National Book Award. A year later, he came
out with Nightwatchmen to positive reviews, and his reputation
as a writer to be reckoned with was well under way.
After a one-year position as Writer-in-residence
at Middlebury College in Vermont, he began
a five-year position at the University
of Alabama teaching literature and creative writing. It was
during this time that he wrote and published what many consider
to be one of the finest collections of short fiction in the contemporary
South, Airships (1978). That same year, Airships won
the Arnold Gingrich Short Fiction Award, setting the stage for his
receiving the prestigious Award for Literature from the American
Institute of Arts and Letters in 1979.
As with fellow native Mississippian William
Faulkner, Hollywood beckoned Hannah and in 1980 he moved there
to write film scripts for director Robert Altman. Also in 1980, Ray found publication. Hollywood did not seem to suit Hannah,
so he began to take several one-year positions as Writer-in-residence
at the University of Iowa (1981), the University
of Mississippi (1982), and the University
of Montana-Missoula (1983).
In 1983, Hannah published The Tennis
Handsome and returned to the University of Mississippi as Writer-in-residence. After
returning to Ole Miss, he continued to publish novels and short
story collections to rave reviews, including Captain Maximus (1985), Hey Jack! (1987), Boomerang (1989), Never
Die (1991), and Bats Out of Hell (1993). In 1996, Hannah
published the short story collection High Lonesome, which has been nominated for the Pulitzer
Prize in Fiction.
He followed that in 2001 with a novel, Yonder Stands Your Orphan.
When asked for his perspective on writing
and teaching literature and writing by Ole Miss English Department
Chair Dan Williams,
Hannah responded by saying that "Reading and writing train our people
for logic, grace, and precision of thought, and begin a lifelong
study of the exceptional in human existence. I think literature
is the history of the soul. Writing should be a journey into worthy
In additon to being known for his writing
abilities, in his creative
writing classes he helped develop writing talents such as Larry Brown, Cynthia
Shearer, and Donna Tartt.
Hannah died March 1, 2010, at his home in Oxford, Mississippi. He was 67.
- Geronimo Rex. New York: Viking Press, 1972.
- Nightwatchmen. New York: Viking Press,
- Ray. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1980.
- The Tennis Handsome. New York: Alfred A.
- Hey Jack!. New York: E. P. Dutton/Seymour
- Boomerang. Boston: Houghton Mifflin/Seymour
- Never Die. Boston: Houghton Mifflin/Seymour
- Yonder Stands Your Orphan. New York: Grove Press, 2001.
Short Story Collections:
- Airships. New York: Alfred A Knopf, 1978.
- Captain Maximus. New York: Alfred A. Knopf,
- Bats Out of Hell. Boston: Houghton
Mifflin/Seymour Lawrence, 1993.
Lonesome. Atlantic Monthly Press, 1996.
- Sick Soldier at Your Door. Forthcoming.
- "Faulkner and the Small Man." In Faulkner and Humor: Faulkner and
Yoknapatawpha. Fowler, Doreen, and Ann Abadie, eds. Jackson: UP
- Men without Ties. Abbeville Press, 1995.
- Power and Light: A Novella for the Screen from an Idea by
Altman. Small Press Distributors, 1983.
- Charney, Mark J. Barry Hannah. New York: Twayne,
- Contemporary Authors, 108: 204.
- Gilman, Owen W., Jr. "Barry Hannah (1942- )." In Contemporary Fiction Writers of the
South: A Bio-Bibliographical Sourcebook. Flora, Joseph M.,
and Robert Bain, eds. Westport, CT: Greenwood,
Selected Book Reviews and Criticism:
- Charney, Mark J. Barry Hannah. New York: Twayne, 1992.
- Crews, Harry. "Carry on, Doctor." Review of Ray. Book World: Washinton Post (16 November 1980).
- DeMott, Benjamin. "Rudeness Is Our Only Hope." Review of Ray. New York Times Book Review. (16 November 1980): 7,
- Eder, Richard. "A War Memorial in the Mind." Review of Hey Jack!. Book Review--Los Angeles Times. (6 September
1987): 3, 12.
- Edwards, Thomas R. "Stolen Loves, Manly Vengeance." Review
of Hey Jack!. New York Times Book Review. (1 November
- Gold, Ivan. "Yoknapatawpha County of the Mind." Review of The Tennis Handsome. New York Times Book Review. (1 May
1983): 11, 19.
- Gretland, Jan. "Interview with Barry Hannah." Contemporary Authors 110 (1984): 233-39.
- Halio, Jay L.. "Violence and After." Southern
Review 15 (July 1979): 702-10.
- Hill, Robert W. "Barry Hannah." South Carolina
Review 9.1 (1976): 25-29.
- Isreal, Charles. "Barry Hannah." In Dictionary of
Literary Biography: American Novelists Since World War II. 2d ser,
vol. 6. Kibler, James E., Jr., ed. 131-33. Detroit: Gale Reseach Co.,
- Jackson, Andrew C. "The Fiction of Barry Hannah."
Dissertation Abstracts International. 51.10 (April 1991).
- Jones, John Griffith. "Interview with Barry Hannah." In Mississippi Writers Talking. Jackson: UP Mississippi, 1982.
- Kaktutani, Michiko. "Books of the Times." Review of Hey
Jack!. New York Times (18 November 1987): C-33.
- Madden, David. "Barry Hannah's Geronimo Rex in
Retrospect." Southern Review 19 (1983): 309-16.
- Malone, Michael. "A Southern Ray of Hope." Review of Ray. Nation (29 November 1980): 585-86.
- Noble, Donald R. "Tragic and Meaningful to an Insane Degree:
Barry Hannah." Southern Literary Review 15.1 (1982): 37-44.
- Rafferty, Terrence. "Gunsmoke and Voodoo." Review of Captain Maximus. Nation 240 (1985):677-79.
- Seib, Kenneth. "'Sabers, Gentlemen, Sabers': The J.E.B.
Stuart Stories of Barry Hannah." Mississippi Quarterly 45.1 (1991-92 Winter):41-52.
- Shepherd, Allen. "Outrage and Speculation: Barry Hannah's Airships." Notes on Mississippi Writers 14.2
- Shepherd, Allen G., III. "The Latest Whiz Bang: Barry Hannah's Captain Maximus." Notes on Mississippi Writers 19.1
- Spikes, Michael P. "What's in a Name? A Reading of Barry Hannah's Ray." Mississippi Quarterly 42.1 (1988-89 Winter):
- Stade, George. "Lives of Noisy Desperation." Review of Captain Maximus. New York Times Book Review (9 June
- Towers, Robert. "Forced Marches." Review of Airships. New York Review of Books (15 June
- Updike, John. "From Dyna-Domes to Turkey Pressing." Review
of Geronimo Rex. New Yorker (9 September 1972): 115-24.
- Vanarsdall, R. "The Spirits Will Win Through: An Interview with
Barry Hannah." Southern Review 19 (1983): 314-41.
Gerald W. "Interview: Barry Hannah." Pen
World 6.3 (1993 Jan.-Feb.) 26-27, 58.
- Weston, Ruth D. "'The Whole Lying Truth of It': Dreams, Lies, and
Confessions in the Fiction of Barry Hannah." Mississippi
Quarterly 44.4 (1991 Fall):411-28.
- Wolcott, James. "Southern Discomfort." Review of Captain
Maximus. New York Times (29 April 1978): 33-34.
- Wood, Michael. "Southern Comforts." Review of Airships. New York Times Book Review (23 April 1978): 1,
- Yardley, Jonathan. "Love and Death and Points in Between."
Review of Nightwatchmen. New York Review (18
November 1973): 14.
Online Reviews and Articles: