‘Uncle High Lonesome’ by Barry Hannah


Uncle High Lonesome by Barry Hannah, 1996

The magic trick:

Flipping the story’s point of view in the final paragraph to suggest generational concentric circles

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

We’re in Mississippi this week, beginning with this wonderful Barry Hannah story.

The narrator recounts the life of his uncle, and the strange and strangely moving relationship he had with the man. It’s good stuff, but the truly remarkable thing happens at the end of the story when the narrator turns the story in on himself, so that suddenly this curious mix of loathing and admiration isn’t simply a portrait of an uncle, it’s a look in the mirror. And that’s quite a trick on Hannah’s part.

The selection:

I’ve talked to my nephew about this. For years now I have dreamed I killed somebody. The body has been hidden, but certain people know I am guilty, and they show up and I know, deep within, what they are wanting, what this is all about. My nephew was nodding the whole while I was telling him this. He has dreamed this very thing, for years.

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