OXFORD – The Avent Park tennis courts on which writer Barry Hannah often played will be named in his memory.
Bookstore owner and former Mayor Richard Howorth asked the Board of Aldermen at last week’s meeting to grant that honor to his friend – a Meridian native who spent 28 years in Oxford before dying in 2010.
“He received a lot of awards – never the biggies, and he never had a big commercial success – but he always had a great critical esteem nationwide,” Howorth said. “He always loved Oxford. He always spoke well of Oxford whenever asked in the press. He always said he’d rather be here than anywhere else.
“He and his wife, Susan, are buried here, and I believe, as obviously Lisa and many of his friends and admirers and supporters think, that it would be appropriate and wise for the city to do this.”
Mayor George “Pat” Patterson concurred.
“Lisa Howorth and I have talked about this as much as a year ago,” he said, referring to Richard Howorth’s wife. “Our friend Barry Hannah was a tennis enthusiast, and we just thought this was terribly appropriate.”
Hannah came to Oxford as the University of Mississippi’s Writer in Residence and directed its Master of Fine Arts program.
“One of his books is probably the most widely used book in MFA fiction writing programs in the country, and a lot of young writers certainly know about Barry Hannah,” Howorth said.
Hannah was the author of 13 books – nine written in Oxford. Among them are first novel “Geronimo Rex” (National Book Award finalist and winner of the PEN/Faulkner Award for the best first novel), “Bats Out of Hell,” “Airships” and “High Lonesome” (nominated for a Pulitzer Prize in fiction).
Wells Tower wrote in Garden & Gun magazine in 2009, “Barry Hannah’s fame is of a peculiar kind. Ask people about him, and either they’ll say they’ve never heard the name (despite his nominations for both the National Book Award and the Pulitzer Prize) or they’ll get a feverish, ecstatic look before they seize you by the lapels and start reeling off cherished passages of his work.”
The motion to name the Avent Park courts for Hannah passed unanimously.