Midnight And I’m Not Famous Yet by Barry Hannah, 1975
The magic trick:
Scattering bits of brilliance among a chaotic batch of ideas and emotions
So ends our week of Barry Hannah stories, and I’m not complaining. These stories are difficult, often offensive, always exhausting. Did I like the stories? I’m still not sure. The racism and misogyny can be overwhelming. The dodgy structures can be all flash, no dash. But damned if these aren’t among the most memorable stories I’ve read for this SSMT website.
Why is that?
I think mainly it’s those little bolts of brilliance that you can count on in every story. In “Midnight,” it’s the lament of the protagonist that he went straight from giggling boy to killer. Even as the story goes in strange – and occasionally annoying – directions (you came home and slept with your aunt? what?), you’ve got a single sentence there that summarizes the soldier experience in war. Amazing. And that’s quite a trick on Hannah’s part.
Old Tubby would remember me. I was the joker at our school. I once pissed in a Dixie cup and eased three drops of it on the library radiator. But Tubby was so serious, reading some photo magazine. He peeped up and saw me do it, then looked down quickly. When the smell came over the place, he asked me, Why? What do you want? What profit is there in that? I guess I just giggled. Sometimes around the midnight I’d wake up and think of his questions, and it disturbed me that there was no answer. I giggled my whole youth away. Then I joined the army. So I thought it was fitting I’d play a Nelda on him now. A Nelda was invented by a corporal when they massacred a patrol up north on a mountain and he was the only one left. The NVA ran all around him and he had his empty rifle hanging on him. They spared him.
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These remind of annotations in grad school, except, unlike an the usual craft annotation, these e get to the quality that makes a story special, the “genius”, or more sanely put, the magic trick. Thanks for these! You are teaching me to read again.
Thanks for the kind words. That really means a lot, and I’m so happy you find value in this!