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Airships

4.05  ·  Rating details ·  2,756 ratings  ·  217 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 ...more
Paperback, 209 pages
Published March 6th 1994 by Grove Press (first published 1978)
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Average rating 4.05  · 
Rating details
 ·  2,756 ratings  ·  217 reviews


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Glenn Russell
Feb 22, 2016 rated it it was amazing


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 she thought she needed a child. She wanted to call it Buck or Francine, depending. She g
...more
Paquita Maria Sanchez
Apr 07, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: literature
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
...more
Mariel
Feb 01, 2012 rated it really liked it
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
...more
Vit Babenco
Apr 07, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Acid love stories, southern Gothic, civil war memoirs, family tales and dreary dystopias: everything in Airships is on the absurdist side.
What a bog and labyrinth the human essence is, in comparison. We are all overbrained and overemotioned. No wonder my professor at the University of Virginia pointed out to us the horses of that great fantast Jonathan Swift and his Gulliver book. Compared with horses, we are all a dizzy and smelly farce.

Barry Hannah explicitly makes mincemeat out of an America
...more
Brian
Aug 21, 2015 rated it it was amazing
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
...more
Algernon (Darth Anyan)
Jan 09, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2018

Barry Hannah came very close to be counted as my 'new' author I discovered in 2017 through Goodreads recommendations. When he's good, he's every bit as good as the other great American short story writers, like Raymond Carver, Flannery O'Connor or Robert Coover. His style has a bit of the bleakness of O'Connor, the loneliness of Carver and the subversive exuberance of Coover, yet Hannah, in this first volume of stories I read from him, is unique and different from his peers. In the introduction
...more
Melki
Aug 17, 2012 rated it really liked it
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
Nick
Mar 05, 2015 rated it it was amazing
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.
Jamie
Jul 09, 2011 rated it really liked it
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
...more
Amelia
Jul 31, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Airships makes me want to be a better man.
Bill Hsu
Sep 13, 2019 rated it liked it
There are substantial chunks of this that I don't get. But of the rest (for example, "Coming Close to Donna", and maybe half of "Mother Rooney Unscrolls the Hurt"), I'm amazed that something this tight, harsh and bawdy was written in the late 70s.
Ned
Jul 14, 2013 rated it really liked it
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
Cody
May 16, 2016 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
...more
Rayroy
Aug 15, 2013 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!
Josh
Sep 15, 2017 rated it it was ok
Shelves: 2017
(2.5) Entertaining, definitely, but not completely enjoyable. "Dragged Fighting From His Tomb" and "Return to Return" were the highlights for me, but perhaps I should stick to novels and non-fiction.
Sam
Apr 30, 2007 rated it it was amazing
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
Andrew Van Os
Jun 23, 2019 rated it liked it
A really weird book by a really weird guy.
Ben Loory
Apr 16, 2013 rated it it was ok
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
Aaron Martz
Apr 04, 2015 rated it it was ok
The first couple stories in this book had me thinking Barry Hannah was the offspring of Raymond Carver and Kurt Vonnegut. He cast the same kinds of characters as Carver - working-class folk, some uneducated - but with a streak of humor and a sense of absurdity that Vonnegut employed. The stories weren't really about anything so much as the thought processes of these characters - a thankfully tiny glimpse into their screwed up worlds. Some of the stories flopped because they didn't seem to be any ...more
Steven
Feb 24, 2015 rated it really liked it
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
Frances
Dec 08, 2007 rated it really liked it
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
John Molina
Feb 13, 2013 rated it really liked it
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
Jessica
Dec 11, 2019 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
I really wanted to DNF this sucker, but it was short and it got me one closer to my goal of reading more books off my TBR list and also I thought, "Hey, I don't think I've had any 1-star reads yet this year!" So here we are.

This book ended up on my TBR because of my attempt to read more unknown books that were highly rated on Goodreads. Turns out that this book was honored by Esquire magazine and many of the stories were originally published in Esquire, so all the folks giving it 5 stars may hav
...more
Peter Landau
Jun 24, 2019 rated it really liked it
There was a time when authors had the fabled N-Word Pass. Truth is, there never was such a thing. Words are offensive but that’s the nature of the game. Barry Hannah’s collection of short stories, AIRSHIPS, mostly takes place in the south, which requires a vocabulary that can be harsh and uncomfortable. Really, all American works that call themselves literature verve into territory that many would rather forget, police or reimagine. That’s not what art does. It doesn’t work in committee or witho ...more
John
Sep 30, 2018 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: short-story
I feel a little guilty about this review. This book is considered (by its blurb) to be a contemporary classic. Hannah can tell a story, and he apparently introduced postmodernism to Southern Literature, but I feel this work may not age well. There is common use of the N-word but not in a way that one can conclude is being used in historical context (example: Flannery O'Connor).

In sum, the book is worth reading--I don't think you can avoid it if you are interested in Southern Literature--but I fo
...more
Patrick Strickland
Feb 15, 2020 rated it really liked it
4.4456 rounding down to 4 stars. I like this book a lot. A few stories are puzzling in how difficult they are to follow, but it's a solid collection and worth reading. Bizarre and dark and funny.
solitaryfossil
I loved this collection of stories about misfits, absurd situations and just “giving up,” Civil War vignettes, funny remembrances and just fine story writing. A real find for Southern Literature fans. Tragic and hysterical by turns, I recommend highly.
Nicole
Feb 09, 2009 rated it really liked it
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
Jenn
Mar 16, 2012 rated it really liked it
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
...more
Brian Gatz
Sep 01, 2011 rated it liked it
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
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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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You know the saying: There's no time like the present...unless you're looking for a distraction from the current moment. In that case, we can't...
28 likes · 10 comments
“What a bog and labyrinth the human essence is... We are all overbrained and overemotioned.” 24 likes
“I looked over the despondency of the home crowd. Fools! Fools! I thought. Love it! Love the loss as well as the gain. Go home and dig it. Nobody was killed. We saw victory and defeat, and they were both wonderful.” 6 likes
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