Barry Hannah Addresses the Whole “Pointing a Gun at a Student” Rumor

From The Paris Review’s interview with Barry Hannah


But about the guns. When you left Alabama, there was an incident . . .


Yes, I was a tenured professor there, and I was fired. I had just been voted in, but I was too heavily into drinking. I was holding class at home or in my studio and they said, Don’t hold any more classes in your studio. And I said, Well, I will. I brought in an empty pistol once and, as I recall, twirled the chambers to explain six movements in a short story. And that is where the gun—pointing a gun at a student—rumor started, but I never pointed a loaded gun at anybody in my life. Even dead drunk. Never, never. I really don’t like that rumor now because of the school shootings. The world has changed so much. I still love my old .22’s from my youth, for shooting beer cans and rats in the city dump. I love the instrument. It’s just a beautiful, clean instrument—and the history —but I have never had any interest in pointing a gun at a person.


Do you remember what the six movements were?


No. I could make up something, but it would be untrue. There’s just three, anyway: beginning, middle, and end. I was com-plicating something that didn’t need to be any more complicated. At one time I’m sure I had six points in my head and they may have been decent, but I refuse to remember them because they’re not necessary now.


The rumor about pointing the gun was that you were playing your trumpet, trying to get their attention. When that didn’t work, you brought out the gun.


I did play my trumpet in class at Alabama. And at the University of Chicago. Blues solo. Ta da na tee. And I was pretty good sober but real loud and inappropriate in a small chamber. The people at Chicago enjoyed it, but a student complained at Alabama. Still, the trumpet’s a much better idea than bringing a pistol. It’s all alcoholism.


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