This episode of Average Mortal Radio is rated R, for Ray, a novel by the Mississippi writer, Barry Hannah.
It’s Tuesday, the 3rd day of March, feeling like spring after the morning rains, and I think of Louise Gluck’s line: It is Spring! We are going to die!
But the morning rains stopped, the sun ripped into the sky like it had been howitzered there, and I drove with my wife down to a job off the middle of the island on Hunter Bay. While she trimmed trees and tidied up ferns, I climbed onto the moss covered roof of a garage/workshop and, with a wire brush and broom, began scraping and sweeping the clustered archipelagos of mosses loose from their clutch on the asphalt shingles and dumping them over the edge of the roof, onto a tarp.
Using my iPod, I listened to a series of lectures by Barry Hannah, the brilliant Mississippi writer, author of Ray, Geronimo Rex, Yonder Stand Your Orphan, and the short story collection Airships, among other works, a pure product of Clinton, Mississippi, a place outside of Jackson of which he speaks lovingly, kindly, and with a writer’s fondness for detail.
Among the lines from Ray, a short novel to be read again and again, savored like one enjoys the discovery of a great new neighborhood restaurant, are:
- I live in so many centuries. Everybody is still alive.
- Whoever created Ray gave him a big sex engine.
- I live near the Black Warrior River and have respect for things.
- Me and the machines saved Uncle Buster. He woke up wanting some wine. All ready to be a bum again. Go out there in the park, safe from vigilant idiots who get their haircuts at fifteen dollars.
- Now I guess I should give you swaying trees and the rare geometry of cows in the meadows or the like–to break it up. But, sorry, me and this one are over.
(The four quotations above are complete chapters.)
So Barry Hannah and I demolished verdant, rich mosses while my wife competently snipped at twigs and sawed at limbs in the garden far below where I worked.
There are worse ways to begin the process of welcoming in spring.