Barrett Hathcock at The Quarterly Conversation:
At this late date Southern literature is only slightly coherent as a marketing label, but if understood as a series of related, competing traditions, it’s vastly more interesting. And like the modern Republican Party, the umbrella of “Southern literature” shades a handful of not always easily alignable interests that often regard each other with suspicion.
For instance, there is the khaki-pants-and-seersucker strain, what you might call the Walker Percy tradition. There is the Faulkner strain, a fabricated country gentleman intent on creating a mythos of the South. (This fabricated gentleman also happens to be Ahab, unfortunately.) And then there is the evangelical degenerate strain, a ménage a trois of booze, Bible thumping, and Foghorn Leghorn. The patron saint of this strain is probably Barry Hannah, most famous for his early story collection Airships and one of the most legitimately weird postwar American writers, at least at the sentence level. Hannah taught writing at the University of Alabama and then at Ole Miss for a sizable chunk of his career, and he was famous for various apocryphal stories related to his drunken outlandishness, both in and out of the classroom. Hannah was himself a character, a presence of folk heroic proportions. (A beloved folk hero, it should be said.) Stories about Hannah were almost as important as stories by him. In his vapor trails he outlined the parameters of his own tradition, and we continue to read his disciples: the Hannahs. (Jim Harrison, who recently died, was, if not a direct disciple, a type of Hannah—a Hannah from Montana, if you will.)
Michael Bible is definitely one of the Hannahs, and this would be the case even if his latest book Sophia didn’t boast a promotional quote from Hannah himself, who’s been dead since 2010.