Picks and Pans Review: High Lonesome

updated 02/10/1997 AT 01:00 AM EST

originally published 02/10/1997 AT 01:00 AM EST

by Barry Hannah

Is Hannah, proud purveyor of the southern Gothic tradition, finished waging his war against the ordinary world? In his 1991 novel Never Die he destroyed the town of Nitburg, Texas, in a gunfight of epic proportions and vented more spleen against the status quo in his 1993 collection Bats Out of Hell. But in High Lonesome he revisits the South with a sense of melancholy that makes these short stories strangely wistful. Reveling in the lives of the off-center denizens of the Mississippi Delta—the auto-parts salesmen, the hermits, the police informants and drunks—he has concocted a series of vivid character sketches linked by a common thread of desire. As the nameless narrator of "Two Gone Over," a philosophizing lothario, says, "...we are predators, eyes forward, and we go on towards the hunt...as if just around the corner is the really fine feed, the really true woman, the world that will call us son." Hannah captures the patois of the swamp and palmetto lands but wisely lets his own voice resonate the loudest. Bold and original, he explores the lives of his eccentrics without exploiting them. (Atlantic Monthly, $22)

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