A Stay Against Confusion: Essays on Faith and Fiction

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9780060956684: A Stay Against Confusion: Essays on Faith and Fiction

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.

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Review:

Ron Hansen's novels have explored spiritual themes. Atticus was inspired by the story of the prodigal son; Mariette in Ecstasy imagines an American nun who received the stigmata. In A Stay Against Confusion, his first essay collection, Hansen mines the connections between faith and fiction even more explicitly and offers fans of his novels the rare opportunity to learn how he has integrated his artistic and religious passions. Hansen, who is Catholic, writes that his love of stories has been inseparable from his love of liturgy since boyhood. And his broadminded reading of the Bible finds there "a kind of myth, a history full of facts and truths but also a fiction formed with harmony, proportion, and beauty, and fully at ease with uncertainties, metaphor, and poetic fancy." With the Bible as his touchstone, in essays such as "Writing As Sacrament" and "What Stories Are and Why We Read Them," Hansen offers clear, direct, and nuanced articulations of the common ground between literary and religious life. "Our need for stories is our need ... to have confirmed for us the theology we hold secret in our heart, that even the least of us are necessary to the great universal plot in ways we hadn't imagined." The book also contains essays of a more specialized nature, including "Eucharist" and "Stigmata," and a number of evocative autobiographical reflections, including a tribute to Hansen's mentor John Gardner. --Michael Joseph Gross

About the Author:

Ron Hansen is the bestselling author of the novel Atticus (a finalist for the National Book Award), Hitler's Niece, Mariette in Ecstasy, Desperadoes, and Isn't It Romantic?, as well as a collection of short stories, a collection of essays, and a book for children. The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford was a finalist for the PEN/Faulkner Award. Ron Hansen lives in northern California, where he teaches at Santa Clara University.

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