A few years back, we claimed that ''Hansen's descriptive expertise is hypnotically precise -- powerful, like an injection... he packs the sensory intensity with potent story.'' A little gushing, but now we've seen this collection of occasional pieces and -- we're stickin' by it. Among the fourteen collected here are a reminiscence of John Gardner (On Moral Fiction
) which makes us sadder than ever that he died so tragically early; a colorful portrait of St. Ignatius Loyola; a convincing interpretation of Gerard Manley Hopkins as great poet and holy man; and other trajectories on the biblical narrative of Cain and Abel, the phenomenon of the stigmata, the epochal quality of the film Babette's Feast
, the Jesuit martyrs of El Salvador, and the Eucharist. Hansen's initial piece treats of writing as sacramental. Beyond all the critical acclaim he's accumulated, a powerful enough incentive to read him, we'd say.
An Eighth Day View:
In this vivid and deeply felt collection of essays, Ron Hansen talks about his novels, childhood, family, and mentors such as John Gardner. He explores prayer, stigmata, twentieth-century martyrs, and the Eucharist. A profile of his grandfather, a "tough-as-nails, brook-no-guff Colorado rancher," finds a place alongside a wonderfully informative portrait of Saint Ignatius of Loyola. A brilliant reading of a story by Leo Tolstoy follows an appreciation of the poetry of Gerard Manley Hopkins.Surprisingly intimate, A Stay Against Confusion brings together the literary and religious impulses that inform the life of one of our most gifted fiction writers.