‘Trek’ by Barry Hannah


Trek by Barry Hannah, 1964

The magic trick:

Trying really hard to let the reader know that you can write and pulling it off

Elmore Leonard’s famous rules of writing boil down to the idea that “If it sounds like writing, rewrite it.”

I like it. I’ve always remembered that. Don’t always adhere to it, and, honestly, depending on the context, maybe you shouldn’t always adhere to it. But it’s a great rule.

The first two sentences in “Trek” 100 percent sound like writing.

“Our host energetically stamped the brake and whipped our station wagon into a space that seemed to me to have burst out of the metallic desert from nowhere. Although assured by our host that we were indeed lucky, I held doubt as to our advantage.”

Fair to say that flies in the face of Elmore’s rule. But who cares? What a way to start a story. And that’s quite a trick on Hannah’s part.

The selection:

Since dawn hid the glow of our destination, we rested then, and fell to singing songs to the glory of our team. The clamor around us, nevertheless, sustained itself in the merchants who dared venture as far back as we were, screaming their offers, which entailed, at what I thought to be highly irregular fees, such entities as the True Maps, relics from the Destination itself, survival pamphlets, Dexedrine and other narcotics stimulating fervor and perseverance, and even such optimistic and far-flung symbols of the Contest itself as partisan flags, medals, and swords.

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