Empathy and Stress Illness (3)

I had never heard of Mississippi writer Barry Hannah until he died two months ago at age 67.  The obituaries quoted many well-known authors who revered him and prominently mentioned his award-winning short story collection Airships (1978).  When my writer friend Peter also praised it I put in an order.

Imagine trying to write stories that don’t read like the work of anyone else.  Barry Hannah achieves this partly with the wide range of plots for his tales which involve the Civil War,  a future apocalypse, old men on a dock, a tennis professional and, in general, the American South.  However, what  strikes me most are his sentences.  They are entertaining, humorous, insightful and occasionally violent.  As the writer Richard Ford puts it, they are “running almost sedately at precipice-edge between sense and hysteria.”  With great economy they enable the reader to infer the background of his unique characters.  This is fun, educational and good practice because with patients in the examining room you also need to make inferences based on limited spoken information.  Highly recommended.

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