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4.11  ·  Rating Details ·  2,248 Ratings  ·  166 Reviews

Now considered a contemporary classic, Airships was honored by Esquire magazine with the Arnold Gingrich Short Fiction Award. The twenty stories in this collection are a fresh, exuberant celebration of the new American South — a land of high school band contests, where good old boys from Vicksurg are reunited in Vietnam and petty nostalgia and the constant pain of disappoi

Hardcover, 209 pages
Published April 12th 1978 by Random House Inc (T) (first published 1978)
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Glenn Russell
Feb 25, 2016 Glenn Russell rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition

Barry Hannah - photo of the writer from the glorious state of Mississippi

Quote from “Escape to Newark” my favorite in the collection: "Once he prayed the Lord to shorten his member and turn his testicles to ash. He viewed her as a sort of rabid hippopotamus cornering him in one bad dream after another. And she smoked five packs a day, often as not an ember between her lips as she rutted above him, spitting out fire all over him on the arrival of her moment. The last horror was when s
Mar 21, 2012 Mariel rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Mindy Metalman
Recommended to Mariel by: Monkey
What are all these about?"
"What do you think?"
"I don't know... smudges? The vagueness of all things?"
"They aren't things. They're emotions."
"You mean hate, fear, desire, envy?"
"Yes. And triumph and despair." She pointed.
"This is subtle. They look the same," Levaster said.
"I know. I'm a nihilist."
"You aren't any such thing."
"Oh? Why not?"
"Because you've combed your hair. You wanted me to come in here and discover that you're a nihilist," Levaster said.
"Nihilists can come their hair." She bit her
Aug 23, 2015 Brian rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Brian by: Paquita Maria Sanchez
When I opened this book of stories I figured I was in for a healthy helping of Grit Lit: tales of backwoods habitués eating varmint and living with violence like a kissin' cousin. Works in the key of Daniel Woodrell, Ron Rash, Harry Crews et al. Barry Hannah blew me away.

In this collection of 20 stories there are certainly pieces centered around mid-to-late century marginalized members of southern society; there's also a handful of fantastic works employing the American Civil War as the setting
Paquita Maria Sanchez
The easiest place to have wit is in the presence of another’s need.

Boy oh boy, there are a lot of wonderful books out there. Did you guys know this? It's true! I picked up Airships out of that same strange magnetic pull which makes you feel compelled to engage a stranger in conversation in a bar or on a sidewalk for reasons not explained by physical attraction. And to be honest, I don't find this book's cover particularly appealing, and the gr blurb about it leaves a number of somethings to be d
Aug 30, 2012 Melki rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The late Barry Hannah was unquestionably a good writer. His versatility was amazing. The characters that inhabit these stories are soldiers, tennis pros, cannibals and high school band members. Most of them are not very likable. They say and do nasty, shocking things. They are starchy and opinionated, and take some getting used to, which is why I think Hannah works better in the long form. His magic and sly humor take a while to creep up on you. Quite honestly, there are several stories here tha ...more
j. ergo
I am halfway through Airships, reading it for the fifth time, but not for a long time, and I can only think of two things. Return to Return may be the greatest short story I have ever read, and Barry Hannah is the only writer I truly love that makes me feel capable of being a writer. Every single other writer I treasure is a discouragement to my own writing through their ability to make me see things I've never seen before, in ways I am unable to imagine myself. The intelligence, wit, and crafts ...more
Jan 29, 2016 Nick rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
The writing in Airships is unlike anything I've encountered. Hannah writes like he was raised on a steady diet of Faulkner, Raymond Carver, and (perhaps) strangely George Saunders. Moments of tenderness abutting hysterical filth.... The stories about Quadberry and French Edward are among the best short stories I've read.
Aug 08, 2012 Amelia rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Airships makes me want to be a better man.
May 18, 2016 Cody rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
We all experience the phenomenon knows as WBWT, or wrong book/wrong time. Coming hot on the heels of five consecutive McCarthy’s (with one interruption by no less than Raymond Carver), Nabokov, and McElroy, Barry Hannah didn’t stand a chance. The fix was in, the ball deflated, the gloves weighted (hey, I’m rapping!)

The thing is, a lot of it works; a brace of stories that are sublime hold promise early out. Unfortunately, there are more stories that don’t (and a few that rankle). When Hannah has
Apr 06, 2013 Jamie rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
As usual, as always: there’s something so unholy about Barry Hannah’s sentences that I want to strip them all of context and make the most beautiful poetry.

A lot of praise gets sung for “Testimony of Pilot,” and rightfully so, but the simple “Water Liars,” the mad and sweet “Love Too Long,” the Vietnam Catch-22 “Midnight And I’m Not Famous Yet,” and the delightfully slow-revealing horror of “Eating Wife and Friends”— more Walking Dead than Walking Dead, more The Road than The Road, and so funny
Ned Mozier
Mar 01, 2014 Ned Mozier rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
What makes this widely varied (size and subject) collection of stories unique is that all are told from inside the mind of (mostly) unbalanced narrators. Each seems to start in a state of confusion or sheer chaos, but Hannah masterfully brings the facts and the motivations into play, and his descriptions are truly fresh and raw. His style is like few others I’ve read, evocative of TC Boyle’s finest and whacked out storylines like Vonnegut. One must be alert and reading carefully as his prose is ...more
Apr 30, 2007 Sam rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: maniacs who love the South
Shelves: shortfiction
It feels strange to give an explanation of why I love this book so much. I gave one of the stories, "Testimony of Pilot" to a group of kids I was teaching last winter, and I am afraid to say not a one of them found it the least bit interesting. In fact, they were mightily confused by it. We had been reading an O'Henry Prize collection, and I think they had gotten used to a very structured, rigorous kind of short story; the Hannah didn't really do if for them. But the reason I like Airships so mu ...more
Sep 04, 2013 Rayroy rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Hands down Barry Hannah is the best short story writer dead or alive except for maybe Raymond Carver, though his stories aren't for those easily offended. Look if you love great literature pick up this book and damn it read the fucking thing, anything less would doing the written word a grave disservice!
Ben Loory
Carlos winced. He wanted something gravely miserable. He had once married a girl from Grand Forks. They were both fat. She had hair on her back and her toes were black with fur. In fact, she was almost a man, seemed to have missed it by one flick of agitation of a gene. She dressed in cowboy fashion, jeans, boots, thirty-dollar hat now that she'd married a guy in the money. Carlos was a Presbyterian then, trying to be a preacher in Tucson, where Navajos started a fistfight during Carlos's sermon ...more
It's difficult to give one rating to a book of short stories, but I enjoyed some of these so much that they overpower the few that I couldn't get into. Barry Hannah has lived down the street since I moved there at age 10, but after my mother stopped me from reading his books in middle school (smart woman), I didn't pick them up until recently. I'm very glad I did. My favorite stories were Water Liars, Love too Long, Return to Return, Our Secret Home, and Mother Rooney Unscrolls the Hurt. I didn' ...more
Feb 22, 2009 Nicole rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Without ever wandering far from a very Southern core, these stories span a wide range of dysfunctions, primarily revolving around love, family, and friendship. And as a whole they are very well written and enjoyable to read. Their lengths vary greatly, which I didn't realize I would appreciate so much when just scanning the table of contents. But one or two stories spanning just a handful of pages between some of the lengthier ones was a bit like coming up for sweet little sips of fresh air betw ...more
Feb 24, 2015 Steven rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: short-stories
Although I'm a real admirer of Hannah's language, I have to say that I do not think as much of this book now as I did when I first read it back 1979. Some of the stories read like Stephen King's early stories—although with a more literary vocabulary. I suppose the civil war stories, given the time when they were written, can be read as metaphors for the Vietnam War (and in "Midnight And I'm Not Famous Yet" the NVA general makes the comparison explicit). And the misogynist and racist rhetoric in ...more
Mar 16, 2012 Jenn rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A lot of these stories require a bit more focus and patience than most short stories do. They are convoluted and surreal with characters about whom you sometimes don't really care. And that's the beauty of them.

I would recommend:
"Love Too Long"
"Testimony of Pilot": intriguing and original, and you'll never forget Arden Quadberry.
"Return to Return": an odd account of jealousy, I suppose; good psychological read.
"Our Secret Home"
I would say "Constant Pain in Tuscaloosa" and "Mother Rooney Unscro
Brian Gatz
This has 5 star stories in it: 'Dragged Fighting from His Tomb', 'Testimony of Pilot', and 'Midnight and I'm Not Famous Yet'. Each of these stories are masterpieces. I just skimmed too many of the shorter pieces (that may be my fault, no his). I've got a pretty big soft spot for Barry Hannah: 'Long, Last, Happy' has all the best of this book and other stuff, too. I'd pick that up. I may read it again. Anyway, he's a top-tier writer. He's got equals, but I don't really care. His stories cut and h ...more
Jul 31, 2013 Josh rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: short-stories
This man could write. His perspective is as unique as anything I have ever read. How in the world he can switch up sentences, thoughts, observations and yet it come out in the end as mostly perceivable I have no idea. My first taste of Hannah, will not be my last.

While I did love the fact that the stories jumped from Civil War soldier tales to something futuristic to something out of the sixties to something that could be happening at a house on my street (HEAVEN FORBID), it was difficult for me
Apr 14, 2009 Kyle rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
I'll admit that it's an unfair bias of mine to assume that literature should have any real "point", but despite the sheer oddity of most of the stories in this collection, the appeal of Barry Hannah's strange style is the most enjoyable when he is the most lucid. As awkward to read as as they sometimes are, stories like "Love Too Long", "Testimony of Pilot", "Our Secret Home", "Eating Wife and Friends", "All the Old Harkening Faces at the Rail", and "Constant Pain in Tuscaloosa" are enjoyable. Y ...more
Feb 08, 2012 David rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
This is my first experience with Barry Hannah; I'm an obvious late comer. This collection is one surprising sentence after another. The characters here are other-worldly. Hannah is the kind of writer that is maddening to read because I can't see where he's coming from. Trying to track his narrative logic is impossible. His prose is all over the place (in the best possible way) and it's as weird and disturbing as his murderous characters.

The longer stories were the most impressive ("Testimony of
John Molina
Feb 21, 2013 John Molina rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Barry Hannah's "AirShips" is a collection of short stories that are twisted, completely inventive, and written in Hannah's distinctly southern style. Hannah has a talent for taking ordinary cliched plots, and making them his own in a way that I have seen few writers attempt, let alone succeed at. The book is fearless in that it does not follow the conventions of traditional literature- by doing this- the book is able to establish a unique tone and style that is innovative and entertaining. I fou ...more
Jul 02, 2012 Sarah rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Sarah by: the internet
Someone gets beaten up with a banana. I think that was my favorite part. As my sense of humor starts to corrode, I have to look around carefully for dumb things to laugh at. There are plenty in Airships.

I may be biased in my love for this book, since it is a book filled with Southern narrators and I am still preoccupied with all that because I am new to it. Really, tho, these are psychotic narrators and the South is the perfect setting for insanity. Insanity is my biggest fear and so I am living
May 31, 2013 TinHouseBooks rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: books-we-love
Masie Cochran (Associate Editor, Tin House Books): I’m reading Airships by Barry Hannah. I read this collection in high school, again in college, and keep coming back to it every few years. I love “Testimony of Pilot, “(take a second and read An Amazing Sentence Shape by Kate Brittain), “Green Gets It,” and “Our Second Home.” But this week, for whatever reason, I’ve read “Love too Long” twice. It’s angry and sloppy and wild and raw and so, so good. It’s about a lot of things, but mainly a man wh ...more
Dec 22, 2013 A. rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
4.5/5 There is no one, as far as I know, who writes like Barry Hannah. Fevered, lewd, darkly funny, occasionally incomprehensible. Hannah is clearly taking cues from the Southern Gothic tradition and the Lish school of short-story writing, but Airships still manages to surprise and bewilder, with stories that consistently keep you on the back foot.

Also, FYI, Hannah is the patron poet saint of what he would call the female "organ." His medium is not exactly the ode; something slightly more dirty
Aaron Guest
Jul 21, 2015 Aaron Guest rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2015
Not sure if all the stories in this collection work. I tried to put it down for a couple days. Felt drawn back to these weird, absurd, emotionally -- at times-- bereft tales. A lot of credit goes to the writing. Each sentence fires off like a synapse. Leaping and bounding over massive spaces. Never sure how or even if the next one can emerge, can connect. But it does and off you shoot again until the ending leaves you a frustrated, nervous wreck or bound to some wild truth; probably both.
Dec 02, 2011 Aran rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: short-fiction
Style is lively but subject matter and general outlook are not my jam. Couldn't finish the last story. I know that it's supposed to be funny... but once I was starting to watch The Ring with a friend and just looking at the opening credits he said: I'm not sure I want these pictures in my brain; let's not watch this. And lo, I do not want more Hannah in my brain, so I did not finish it.
Jun 10, 2012 Gabe rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
This is a 2 1/2 really. I appreciate his unique voice and way with dialogue. That said a few of the stories just felt like his subconscious thrown up on the page, and not in a good way. I'll probably try a different collection instead of coming back to this one, which I stalled out on halfway through.
Jessica Lamb-Shapiro
This book is so good I never finished it. I know that's weird. I didn't want the book to end. Somehow that made sense in my brain. And whenever I think about reading the last story I feel sad, so I don't.
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Barry Hannah was an American novelist and short story writer from Mississippi. He was the author of eight novels and five short story collections. He worked with notable American editors and publishers such as Gordon Lish, Seymour Lawrence, and Morgan Entrekin. His work was published in Esquire, The New Yorker, The Oxford American, The Southern Review, and a host of American magazines and quarterl ...more
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“What a bog and labyrinth the human essence is... We are all overbrained and overemotioned.” 21 likes
“My sense of the past is vivid and slow. I hear every sign and see every shadow.” 6 likes
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