I'm as excited as anyone to watch the debate tonight, but if I lived anywhere close to Tuscaloosa, Alabama, I would be watching the debate on tape delay. No way would I miss Barry Hannah's reading there:
“It’s been a long time,” said Michael Martone, chair of UA’s creative writing program, “at least since I’ve been here, and that’s 12 years now.”
Hannah contacted Martone, noting he still has family here and visits often. In addition to the new book, Grove Press has recently re-issued a collection of his older titles, among them “Ray,” written about his time in Tuscaloosa, “Geronimo Rex,” which won the William Faulkner Prize and was nominated for the National Book Award, the story collections “Airships” and “Bats Out of Hell,” and “High Lonesome,” which was nominated for the Pulitzer Prize.
Hannah still has friends here as well.
“We were great friends; we were drinking buddies, is what we were,” said UA English professor Phil Beidler, “although I’m proud to say neither of us has had a drink in more than 20 years. We were co-enablers. We took to each other like ducks. We were just loony for a while.”
Hannah did bring a revolver to class once, in the same case with his flugelhorn. Esquire magazine, in a 1998 article, backs that up. Students apparently tried to walk out on Hannah’s impromptu solo, at which point he waved the pistol, saying “Now this is some bad soul. You guys had better learn the difference.”
The story about Hannah firing into the floorboards of his MG, having let it fill with rain while he drank away an afternoon at The Chukker, apparently has its basis in truth as well.
“I’ve never heard him say it; but it’s almost like it’s in the air,” Martone said.