Spring 2011 Syllabus, cont.


6 December 2010

A friend sent me this recently (we habitually exchange passages from books we’re reading):

I have been sober ever since.

I have just told a lie.

At forty, I am at a certain peace. I have plenty of
money and the love of a beautiful red-haired girl from
Colorado. What’s more, the closeness with my child-
ren has come back to a heavenly beauty, each child a
hero better than yours.

You may see me with the eye-patch, though, in
almost any city of the South, the Far West, or the
Northwest. I am on the black and chrome Triumph,
riding right into your face.

It’s from a Barry Hannah story. Coincidentally, when I had read the email from my friend, I had just gotten my motorcyclist’s license and was eyeing Triumphs parked on the streets.  Haven’t ridden into anyone’s face yet, but perhaps the story will light a fire…

Also recently read a Paris Review interview with Amy Hempel. It’s a good one, and in it she says that Hannah, along with Raymond Carver and Mary Robison, were her strongest influences when she started out.  There is a particularly wonderful section of the interview about “what is a story” that is exactly what I’d hoped she’d talk about, since her stories come to us as such unconventional shapes and experiences:

Years ago, Lenny Michaels was publishing some really fine short-short paragraph-long stories in good literary magazines. And I asked him if he took some heat from people who thought they weren’t really stories. He said, “You tell them what a story is. They don’t know.” This corroborated what I already suspected. It harkens back to the way you examine experience. Some writers have a more defined sense of cause and effect. Plot. My sense of life is more moment, moment, and moment. Looking back, they accrue and occur to you at a certain time and maybe you don’t know why, but you trust that they are coming back to you now for a reason. And you make a leap of faith. You trust you can put these moments together and create story[…]

Ultimately you write the way you can write. Someone once complimented Carver on a story, and he modestly said, It’s what I can do. I always thought that was a lovely thing to say, and accurate. Barry Hannah’s version was, Be master of such as you have.

All this to say that Barry Hannah will be joining the seminar reading list. Likely Amy Hempel as well.


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