‘Shooting star’ Barry Hannah dies aged 67
Alison Flood guardian.co.uk, Tuesday 2 March 2010 11.23 GMT Article history
Acclaimed US author Barry Hannah, who won the William Faulkner award for his debut novel Geronimo Rex in 1972, died on Monday, age 67.
According to the University of Mississippi, where Hannah taught creative writing for more than 25 years to students including The Secret History author Donna Tartt, the writer passed away at his home in Oxford, Mississippi. He had been diagnosed with cancer 15 years ago, and his death appeared to be due to a heart attack, according to his son, the university said.
Born in Clinton, Mississippi in 1942, Hannah was the recipient of a host of literary prizes for his nine novels and four collections of short stories. Geronimo Rex, set in the American south of the 1950s and 1960s, was nominated for the National Book Award as well as taking the William Faulkner, while his 1978 short story collection Airships, about the Vietnam war, the civil war and the modern south, won the Arnold Gingrich Short Fiction award.
Fellow novelist and Mississippi native Richard Ford told the Associated Press that Hannah was “a shooting star”. “Barry could somehow make the English sentence generous and unpredictable, yet still make wonderful sense, which for readers is thrilling. You never knew the source of the next word. But he seemed to command the short story form and the novel form and make those forms up newly for himself,” Ford said, telling the newswire that the two friends often discussed the nature of “southernness”.
“We circled the whole issue of southernness differently,” said Ford. “I think he embraced it in a way that he took sustenance from. He chose to live in William Faulkner’s town, chose to stay in the south, to his great strength and credit. But he was not a regional talent. He was much larger than that.”
Hannah was also awarded the American Institute of Arts and Letters’ prize for literature, a Guggenheim, the Robert Penn Warren lifetime achievement award, and the PEN Malamud award for excellence in the art of the short story. His short story collection High Lonesome was nominated for the 1996 Pulitzer prize for fiction.
A conference dedicated to Hannah’s writing, the 17th Oxford Conference for the Book, was scheduled to begin on Thursday. He is survived by his wife, Susan, and three children.