HEY JACK! by Barry Hannah


Email this review


Hannah's up to all his old tricks here--the same combination of plain vulgarity and cockeyed poetry, and of boozy swagger and forced tenderness that's been at the heart of his ever-diminishing fictions (Ray, The Tennis Handsome, and Captain Maximus) since the singular achievement of Airships (1978). Ostensibly a paean to the kinds of fellers who sit around the courthouse-- ""those ancient mariners in this landlocked and softy"" Mississippi town--this slim book really celebrates its narrator--a 56-year-old bachelor haunted by his experiences in Korea. On the last page, we learn he's named Homer, and we're meant to understand he's been condemned to ""know everything"" as a truth-teller. But what he's told us about, other than his artistic flatulence (""1 gave out this private marvelous fart that was equal to a paragraph of Henry James. . .""), is mostly a bunch of deep-fried clichÉs ("". . .the South has been picked in the juice of its own image""). Though fragmentary, there's something of a plot: Jack Lipsey, former war correspondent, sheriff, professor, and cattleman, now runs a coffee shop in town. This suave septuagenarian is mightily disturbed by the fact that his daughter Alice, a divorced schoolteacher in her 40s, has taken up with Ronnie Foot, a coke-tootin' rock star who's so bored by what America has to offer him that he's come home ""to destroy his own people."" But he mostly destroys Alice in a game of William Tell. Homer meanwhile dispenses lots of curious wisdom (""all you need [in life] is a roof, a prayer, and some pussy"") which, when stimulated by some hooch, can be as racist as it is generally sexist (""Niggers live in filth, use food stamps, and make a hero out of Michael Jackson. . .""). How long can Hannah hide behind his obnoxious ""personae""? When this Homer nods, he sleeps on the notion: ""Everybody vile is writing a book. I am writing a book."" 'Nuff said.

Pub Date: Sept. 11th, 1987
Publisher: Dutton