Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “Ray” as Want to Read:
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview


3.93  ·  Rating details ·  1,218 ratings  ·  123 reviews
Nominated for the American Book Award, Ray is the bizarre, hilarious, and consistently adventurous story of a life on the edge. Dr. Ray--a womanizer, small-town drunk, vigilante, poet, adoring husband--is a man trying to make sense of life in the twentieth century. In flight from the death he dealt flying over Vietnam, Dr. Ray struggles with those bound to him by need, sic ...more
Paperback, 128 pages
Published March 6th 1994 by Grove Press (first published October 12th 1980)
More Details... edit details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about Ray, please sign up.

Be the first to ask a question about Ray

Community Reviews

Showing 1-30
3.93  · 
Rating details
 ·  1,218 ratings  ·  123 reviews

More filters
Sort order
Adam Dalva
Dec 04, 2017 rated it liked it
"At the office there were a number of people in line. I went over to the back window and looked out over the creek, then down to it and the slick granite rocks through which it rushed. Who was it said we were invented by water as a means of its getting itself from one place to the other?"

This novella is one of the best-written things I have ever read - there's nothing better, in a way:

"Pick the football up, travel rearward on your legs, the way is clear, there is your receiver, arms up in the l
Paquita Maria Sanchez
Jan 13, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: literature, usa
This is probably the best book in the world that almost everyone in the world has never read. Holy shit, few to none in my experience have ever been as effortlessly eloquent as this guy, so (literally) obscenely charming and erudite and just offensively good at prose. I have been known to at least once mail his books to friends who don't even regularly read just because Barry Hannah is exactly the thing that will make non-readers read, and a lot, though they will admittedly mostly be reading Bar ...more
Vit Babenco
Jul 09, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Ray is a jazzy tale. It is a rock and roll of a story.
There are so many ways to live your life. And there are so many ways not to live your life. Ray is a manual of the ways not to live your life but paradoxically they are our favourite ways of living.
Ray is thirty-three and he was born of decent religious parents, I say.
Ray, I didn’t ever think it would get to this. The woman I love and that I used to meet in the old condemned theater and we would wander around looking at the posters and worshi
Mar 03, 2013 rated it liked it
Wanna have fun? Next time a friend asks for a book recommendation whip this short little piece out (Freudianism intended) and watch the looks you get in the next few days. It's going to go one of two ways......either one could be interesting!

When I was a kid, I spent a little time in a horse barn with an old marine type who trained horses. Except he never trained, he just saddled and unsaddled them for kids like me to ride for him. We all did so because while it wasn't our turn, we sat on milk c
I read this after reading Samuel Beckett and Roberto Bolaño. The similarities to Bolaño were that it contained many short chapters of musings, and was from a male point of view with machismo and objectifying women as objects of forking. There the similarities end. The whole Ray book can fit inside a Bolaño essay. When I’m bored with a book, I open my eyes really wide and take snap shots of a page, quick snapshots after snapshots to get it over with.
John Pistelli
I know Hannah is a beloved figure (lavish blurbs on this edition from Philip Roth, Cynthia Ozick, Alfred Kazin, James Dickey), but this doesn't do anything for me. Ray a miscellany of edgy zaniness that we're apparently supposed to accept quite soberly as a literary correlate of "the American confusion." Narrated Beckett-style from a hospital bed by Dr. Ray of Tuscaloosa after he has some kind of alcoholic crack-up, it meanders through tales of the town's eccentrics and through Ray's memories of ...more
Kristin Fouquet
Mar 27, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Recommended to Kristin by: Carter Monroe
In the spring of 1990, a friend suggested if I liked J.D. Salinger, I should read Raymond Carver. It would seem this recommendation and my subsequent falling in love with Carver’s style would come a bit too late. My “discovery” of him came two years after his death. I read everything by Carver I could find. I even turned down plans with friends to stay home and read his stories.

Years later, the controversy of Carver and his editor, Gordon Lish, became public and many voiced their thoughts on the
Sep 04, 2011 rated it really liked it
The writing, which is dazzling, gets five stars, maybe six. But... I'm loath to moralize about art, but Hannah's evident romance with his run-down, tough-guy, jet-pilot-Nam-vet, dreaming-of-JEB Stuart narrator and his despite-all-the-thanatism-alcoholism-casual-misongyny-and-racism-I'm-still-a-charming-fucker,-ain't-I? self-regard sticks in my craw, even as it goads me into about 36 hours of put-on swagger. This might have been easier to take when Burt Reynolds still smoldered and it will be eas ...more
Nov 17, 2017 rated it it was ok
Shelves: male, fiction, american
This book is hard to review adequately because it puts into light several questions about the nature of reviewing. Though I should best go into them by describing the reading experience. Ray is laced with witty, atonal lines--clipped sentences that hit you like a gut-punch. Some of my favourite prose of the year, by a long margin. But it's also filled to the brim with racism, sexism, anti-semitism, etc, etc.

And, OK, the character himself is racist, misogynistic, anti-semitic--often I don't real
Jul 27, 2008 rated it it was amazing
wow, I'd never read Barry Hannah before and have just fallen in love with him. I think it's because almost every line is completely unexpected--i'm a sucker for that. But overall the writing is just incredibly sharp. However, I can't be responsible for reactions to the actual content of the book. the guy's clearly a racist and misogynist up the wazoo.
Jan 11, 2009 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: anyone who would like to be dope-slapped by a rotting brassiere filled with crumbling masonry.
"Ray," a slender early novel by the Mississippi writer Barry Hannah, is the first person account of an alcoholic/drug addicted/physician/former fighter pilot who, in his own words, "lives near the Black Warrior River and has an enormous sex engine." His love of the Hooches, particularly Sister Hooch, richly erotic singer and her morphine addicted poet father, Papa Hooch, runs like mainlined junk through the story of a man who's lived so many lives in so many different times.

This novel is unique
Oct 09, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
The best book I have read this year.
Apr 20, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: hannah, favorites
this is the 4th from hannah for me and i think it is by far his best.

i read a review or two three that mention...that word, it means "hatred of women" i don't even know how to spell the fucking word, much less pronounce it, but it's been a part of my world since i went to college. like the word "pink". i could say ray is "pink" and it would mean exactly the same fucking thing. nothing. wait now, "pink" says more because it denotes a color, whereas "misogyny" as it is used means nothing until the
Erik Evenson
Jun 26, 2009 rated it really liked it
Here is a scene from Ray:
Westy comes in. She's disturbed.
"Are you drinking, Ray?"
"No. Get me a drink."

Here's another scene:
She hits me over the head with a pillow.
Some days even a cup of coffee is violence.
When I can find my peace, I take a ladder to the hot attic and get out the whole plays of Shakespeare.
Okay, old boy. Let's hear it again. Between the lines I'm looking for the cure for cancer.

and the kicker:
Ken, my nephew, once asked me as we were going to sleep after some snapper fi
Krok Zero
May 24, 2009 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: summer-2009
Sabers, gentlemen, sabers!

Someday Barry Hannah will get his due as one of the greatest American writers. Sure, all his books have been critically acclaimed and he enjoys a healthy cult following, but this man deserves to be a household name. His books should be taught in schools, his name should be whispered in tones of mythic reverence. "Ray" is a concentrated blast of what makes Barry Hannah unique and wonderful, 113 slim pages of distilled genius. You will not forget it. And if you happen to
Jul 24, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Doctor ray is a womanizer, a small town drunk, vigilante, poet and adoring husband.
The author presents this very hyper character who goes after anything he likes in a dress, while being married, he does it all in theses pages so expect some talk of the sexual nature coupled with his bizarre outlook and humor to life. Ray lives life wildly and to the edge and he's having swell of a time doing it. The story was written some nice little sentences with some great dialogue. I found this to be good ol
Apr 22, 2018 rated it it was amazing
"Nether. That’s a good one. Hang on to a word like nether.
Her nether hoot. No I don’t, nether. This is the netherlands and it will nether get worse. That is the awfulest netherest laughter.
I just threw up my netherest soul. There’s nothing left, nether. My eyes are full of yellow bricks. There are dry tiny horses running in my veins."

He’s…it’s just…
Sometimes, it’s as if the sentences are charged by an electrical current, evenly humming while blue sparks arc from word to word, daring you to follo
Dec 14, 2011 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Melody by: Craig Izard
Barry Hannah's nephew told my husband that he had tried briefly living with Uncle Barry. He said he never used a cliché, always had something interesting to say, but his rants started to scare him. That's just how I felt about the book. My, my, he can turn a phrase - but what the hell is he talking about?
Barry Hannah was the uncle of my husband's college roommate. That fact, the poetic phrases, and the familiar landmarks mentioned in the "story" (the term I shall use lightly) made the book a lik
Mar 05, 2010 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: stand-alone
Howl! This transcends the term "a novel" or merely brilliant writing. Ray is pure art . . . a mosaic, a collage. Never experienced a comparable book. For me, it is bitter, sharp edged, moving, vulgar, painful, heroic, loyal, red, visceral, southern, soft, grey, delicate . . . . It is all that art could ever hope to convey and each "reader" will come away with a different experience. For example, I didn't see the humor tucked into this work. Others have. My perspective is impacted, I'm certain, ...more
The life and times of a racist, sexually promiscuous, substance abusing, Alabama physician and Vietnam veteran as related in stream of consciousness prose by the eponymous first person narrator. I love the prose, and the protagonist, while dislikable, is nonetheless authentic.
Mar 12, 2011 rated it it was amazing
One of my favorite books ever. Hannah's language is batshit crazy, burns right off the page.
Bud Smith
Jun 26, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Easily one of the best books I've ever read.
John Cates
Jun 11, 2018 added it
Recommended to John by: Takoma Park meet up book club
I guess being disjointed and jumping around sometimes almost sentence to sentence is what it means to be "boldly original" and having quirky characters makes justifies comparisons with other Southern authors. Glad it wasn't longer
Dan Sherrell
Jan 16, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
I've probably never had more fun reading a book. The sentences are like standing under a whiskey waterfall, getting pleasantly pummeled. Damn I wish I'd somehow known Barry Hannah in his prime. Closest I've come is sharing a beer with one of his old drinking buddies while I was living out of a Winnebago and working on a vegetable farm near Oxford, MS. In that town, if not in the rest of the country, he remained a legend well after his death.
Dec 16, 2016 rated it did not like it
Shelves: short, library-books
I don't understand how this book has a nearly four star average. I don't understand it at all. It's a random and jumbled-up collection of tiny bits of stories and anecdotes that are neither interesting nor entertaining, in fact far more of them are just pointless or even offensively stupid. Perhaps I should have read some of the reviews before deciding to read this book, they're glowing but in a way that I would have known that I'd hate the book.

At least it was mercifully short, taking perhaps a
Matthew Thompson
Nov 15, 2010 rated it it was amazing
An unforgettable performance of run-on storytelling. Ray the novel is about Ray the person: an overheated, drug-addled, war vet doctor who threatens to come apart at the seams as he plunges headlong into the heart of his small southern town. Named the heir apparent to such literary greats as Faulkner and O'Connor, Hannah's strength has always been in his ability to blend grotesque strangeness with flesh and blood writing (please see: Airships, his sprawling debut, Geronimo Rex, anything really w ...more
Sep 16, 2010 rated it really liked it
What to say...Ray is an amazing, crazy, out-of-the-box book that, at the same time, annoyed the heck out of me. Hannah's writing is so good, the phrases he uses, the energy of the whole thing, all leave me stunned in a good way. But the misogyny, the homophobia, the racism, the sheer bloody-mindedness all leave me stunned in a bad way. It's awful to have both things in one do you rate something that just may be one of the best pieces of writing you've ever read when you LOATHE what it ...more
Nov 10, 2012 rated it it was amazing
'I was treating a large old woman who spat in my face. I fell backward into the heater, face-forward. This is to prove that I'm not always the hero.'

The protagonist is an oversexed philanderer, jet pilot, doctor, bad poet, alcoholic and it was published in 1980. A good critique of the next thirty years to come. Classic American novella that everyone you know should read. And, hey, at 110+ pages, maybe everyone you know is even capable of reading it (they probably will need to use their smartphon
Jan 17, 2015 rated it really liked it
Take the Southern dysfunction and fragmentary views of reality from Faulkner, add a bit of PoMo à la Donald Barthelme, and a healthy outrageous pinch of farcical humor from Mark Leynor or George Saunders (who of course come after Hannah and are undoubtedly influenced by him), and toss them all in a 1980 mint GE-brand cream-colored blender and set the mix to chop, then eventually puree and wait a while, and you might get something like this book. Try it, you’ll like it.
Sep 29, 2014 rated it liked it
i don't know what to say about this. it is scabrous and wretched and poorly behaved, but also poisonously funny, and intermittently ignited by genius. nowhere near the same kind of thing as airships. in love with the simplicity of sex and violence. cacophonous, at once somewhat bad and very good. 1-5 is not a very useful diagnostic tool.
« previous 1 3 4 next »
There are no discussion topics on this book yet. Be the first to start one »

Readers also enjoyed

  • Facing the Music
  • The Knockout Artist
  • The Half-Mammals of Dixie
  • The Lime Twig
  • Kentucky Straight: Stories
  • The Ice at the Bottom of the World: Stories
  • I Hate to See That Evening Sun Go Down: Collected Stories
  • Poachers
  • Music of the Swamp
  • Waste
  • Venus Drive
  • Modern Baptists
  • Partial List of People to Bleach
  • The Watch
  • The Dog of the South
  • Stories V!
See similar books…
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