BOOMERANG by Barry Hannah


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More booze-addled ranting and red-necked rambling from the bad old boy of southern fiction, and despite the publisher's claim, there's no reason to consider this slim volume anything but autobiography. Hannah seems to be growing older if not up, for here he celebrates his fondness for guns and motorcycles even as he chronicles the deterioration of his own self by smoking, liquor, and drugs. Some combination of it all has even led to a few bouts in the bin. But here Hannah wants us to know: he's O.K. Sure, he still smacks his wife around on occasion, but he's got his kharma in order--with plenty of good vibes to spare. Little mash notes go out to his kids, his dogs, and his friends. And what great friends! Hannah drops their names with abandon: his old editor, Gordon Lish; his new publisher, Sam Lawrence; his neighbor, Willie Morris; his musical muse, Jimmy Buffett; and of course his fellow literary ruffians--Hunter Thompson, Tom McGuane, and Jim Harrison. For good measure, Jack Nicholson and Michael Douglas make cameo appearances. Looking backward, Hannah romanticizes boyish things: shooting air rifles, fishing, hi-school football, masturbation, his first beers, and playing the trumpet in the state band. Some "where are they now"' bits about his old pals fill out these nostalgic digressions. Much of Hannah's later life takes place in college towns throughout the South, ending in his present sinecure as writer-in-residence at Ole Miss--the perfect job for someone who seeks little more than "shelter, hooky, and respect." Hannah mourns a colleague who died in his prime with "his sport shoes on," and he also repeatedly plugs Oxford's literary hangout, Square Books. Interrupting these various random observations is a narrative about his (imaginary?) great-uncle Barton Benton Yelverston, a born entrepreneur who, in his 60s, remarries his first wife and fathers another son to replace the one who was brutally murdered by black "dope pirates"--"a new ruthless breed in Mississippi and Alabama." Yelverston's tale of sorrow and salvation is no doubt intended to parallel Hannah's--they survive despite it all. Hannah expects readers to treat his casual racism, misogyny, and amorality ("I move through life without a conscience") as laughably ironic. But even if you can, this is still a disagreeable work--muddled in design, a mess as executed.

Pub Date: May 22nd, 1989
ISBN: 395-48882-6
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin
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