Books by James Hannah

SIGN LANGUAGES by James Hannah
Released: Aug. 1, 1993

An eclectic, bittersweet group of nine stories—Hannah's second book of fiction (Desperate Measures, 1988—not reviewed)- -mostly concerning lonesome men in exile who struggle desperately for human connection or who write off humankind. In the powerful title story, Charles is lost but comes upon a rural farmhouse where he is saved (imagine Welty's ``Death of a Traveling Salesman'' with an upbeat ending); and in deftly done and touching ``Interstate,'' Henry is traveling cross-country with his six-year-old daughter, Maggie, whose soda-pop-fueled premonition (``I think something really bad is going to happen to us'') turns out, come morning, to be a false alarm. ``Residue'' is a Paul Bowles-flavored story about a man working in an Asian desert and saving money but losing his soul in a place of ``hardships but no dangers.'' ``Backyards'' is about a man who stays for a month in his brother's house; the piece first takes a voyeuristic turn, then turns absurd. ``Gypsy Moth'' tries—mostly successfully—to get into the mind of a serial killer, while ``Rising Water, Wind-Driven Rain''—set in the 17th, 20th, and 2lst centuries—gets stretched too thin and turns tedious. Some of these were first published in magazines like The Kansas Quarterly and The South Carolina Review. Hannah's plots are uneven, but his ear for mood and tone is nearly unerring—and the collection, for that reason, has a cumulative power that the individual stories don't have on their own. Read full book review >