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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 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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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 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.

30 review for A Stay Against Confusion: Essays on Faith and Fiction

  1. 4 out of 5

    Barbara

    I read Hansen's Mariette in Ecstasy for English Seminar one semester at Biola, and was fascinated with the way it explored an extreme form/manifestation of religious devotion (stigmata) and the reactions that such phenomena can spark. I later picked up this collection of Hansen's essays, intrigued by the title alone, but also because I was interested in what this particular author had to say on the interplay between faith and fiction. I was a little disappointed that the essays in the volume didn I read Hansen's Mariette in Ecstasy for English Seminar one semester at Biola, and was fascinated with the way it explored an extreme form/manifestation of religious devotion (stigmata) and the reactions that such phenomena can spark. I later picked up this collection of Hansen's essays, intrigued by the title alone, but also because I was interested in what this particular author had to say on the interplay between faith and fiction. I was a little disappointed that the essays in the volume didn't spend more time examining that faith/fiction relationship. There were a few along that line, but on the whole, the essays were self-contained--some falling under the faith category and some under the fiction category. That said, I very much enjoyed the book once I got the self-contained thing through my head. I found Hansen's essays quietly thoughtful and reflective. Even though they didn't all fit into the topic I was interested in exploring, I really liked his voice and hope to explore more of his writing. The essays vary fairly widely in topic, and I found myself compiling a list of books, movies, and other stuff I wanted to explore further as I made my way through the collection. That's always a good sign. Hansen discusses Tolstoy's "Master and Man," the movie Babette's Feast, the poetry of Gerard Manley Hopkins, the Biblical story of Cain (from the perspective of a twin), and offers a meditation on the "Anima Christi" prayer--which I was interested to discover is one that appears at the beginning of the Ignatian Exercises. Mid-year last year, someone recommended the Ignatian exercises to me, and over the past few months, I've come across more and more references to St. Ignatius/Ignatian spirituality/the Ignatian exercises. This book fit right in with this thread--there's an essay on the life of St. Ignatius and the beginning of the Jesuit order, as well as other references to Ignatius scattered throughout the book. Hansen teaches at a Jesuit college, go figure. =) I'm thinking I need to do some more reading on the topic--intentional, rather than the fortuitous convergence of late. I'm gonna close with a passage I loved, from the essay "Eucharist." Here, Hansen describes the moments following his receiving first communion. It's an amazing picture to me of what communion is about--the grace we are given to partake in something both symbolic and thoroughly real, the work Christ has done and is still doing within us, something accomplished and yet still being accomplished...yes, there is sin. But there is also grace. "Then I knelt heedfully upright and mentally prayed as we'd been instructed to do, some scared and scientific part of me assaying myself for chemical reactions or a sudden infusion of wisdom while fancying Christ now sitting dismally in my scoundrel soul, my oh so many sins pooling like sewer water at his sandaled feet. But soon I saw that I was still me; there would be no howls of objection, no immediate correction or condemnation, no hint that I was under new management, just the calming sense that whoever I was was fine with Jesus. It was a grace I hadn't imagined."

  2. 5 out of 5

    Darrell Reimer

    Ron Hansen’s A Stay Against Confusion: Essays On Faith & Fiction attracted me with a chapter devoted to John Gardner. I borrowed the book from the library and quickly polished it off. Hansen is one of those peculiar people commonly referred to as “a devout Catholic.” He begins the book with a meditation on how he fell in love with the deep power of story while attending mass as a child, and he concludes it with an ebullient essay on The Eucharist. In between there are ruminations on stigmata, var Ron Hansen’s A Stay Against Confusion: Essays On Faith & Fiction attracted me with a chapter devoted to John Gardner. I borrowed the book from the library and quickly polished it off. Hansen is one of those peculiar people commonly referred to as “a devout Catholic.” He begins the book with a meditation on how he fell in love with the deep power of story while attending mass as a child, and he concludes it with an ebullient essay on The Eucharist. In between there are ruminations on stigmata, various stories and films that sustain his imagination, and personalities who have Made A Difference. When I started the book, the only essay I wanted to read was the Gardner bit. But Hansen is a beguiling writer, and I found myself compelled to read even those chapters which at first blush seemed of limited interest. This book is a declaration of love and devotion. There are many readers who will find encouragement in Hansen’s thoughtful approach to his task — for those looking for an appropriate meditation to close the final week of Lent, Hansen’s homily on Anima Christi is just the thing. Still, I have to admit I find it all a little alien. It seems to me this is a devotional impulse that almost takes root at a cellular level within the bloodstream. If that sounds cheeky, I don’t mean it to: I’m simply at a loss to understand it. It could be that, as a member of the Church, my devotion is too mean. Also, the Catholic Church has long excelled at projecting the romance of devotion; in my tradition the romance begins with apocalyptic sects (and sex — the wiki is a little coy on this matter and mentions only the polygamy), retreats quickly into the barn and stops the door with monster of a book called The Martyr’s Mirror . Catholics get all those fabulous costumes; we get shunned if we wear anything with a zipper. In any case, my religious dialog begins with a grudge, and moves gradually (if at all) into the arena of glory, laud and honor. Of course, it doesn’t have to be that way for everyone. If any of this is a curiosity to you, walk over to your local library and make that request. As for whether or not it’s worth the cover price, well ... was it not a Catholic who came up with, “Caveat emptor”?

  3. 5 out of 5

    Elizabeth

    The subjects of Hansen's book are more interesting than his writing about them (Ignatius, Hopkins, the martyred priest of El Salvador). There's a Catholic bonhomie that fails to address real crises of faith. For example, Hansen's reductive essay on Hopkins, he insists that he was refined through his illness and depression and came to some greater spiritual depth, but I don't see Hansen giving real evidence for this. In his rather tepid defense of liberation theology, he carefully (and dishonestl The subjects of Hansen's book are more interesting than his writing about them (Ignatius, Hopkins, the martyred priest of El Salvador). There's a Catholic bonhomie that fails to address real crises of faith. For example, Hansen's reductive essay on Hopkins, he insists that he was refined through his illness and depression and came to some greater spiritual depth, but I don't see Hansen giving real evidence for this. In his rather tepid defense of liberation theology, he carefully (and dishonestly) distances it from Marxism. I often felt rather patronized as a reader.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Jason

    A book I expect I'll read again and again in the future. I've read its piece "What Stories Are and Why We Read Them" three or four times now (and assigned it to my students this semester), but the book, as a whole, is every bit as magnificent. "Hearing the Cry of the Poor: The Jesuit Martyrs of El Salvador" is devastating (I couldn't put it down and found myself, by turns, outraged, appalled and wrestling with how I might forgive the perpetrators of such a horrific crime, not to mention the Amer A book I expect I'll read again and again in the future. I've read its piece "What Stories Are and Why We Read Them" three or four times now (and assigned it to my students this semester), but the book, as a whole, is every bit as magnificent. "Hearing the Cry of the Poor: The Jesuit Martyrs of El Salvador" is devastating (I couldn't put it down and found myself, by turns, outraged, appalled and wrestling with how I might forgive the perpetrators of such a horrific crime, not to mention the American government that endorsed and enabled it). The essay on Saint Ignatius of Loyola is a gold mine of historical record. Hansen's appreciation of Babette's Feast is cinematically and religiously incisive. His meditation on the Eucharist -- the final essay in the collection -- moved me, at times, as much as any writing has moved me this year. What a marvelous book. What a generous view into the mind and heart of an individual Catholic, and so into Catholicism itself. Hansen -- as Marilynne Robinson does, as Garry Wills does, as Frederick Buechner does -- reminds me, again, why I'm a Christian.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Quin Herron

    I am an abiding and deeply appreciative fan of the film adaptation of The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford, and I also enjoyed Mariette in Ecstasy for its stalwart ambiguity. A Stay Against Confusion contains some lovely essays which give some deeper understanding to these works, and I some of the thought processes of a fine American writer. While some parts of it can be a little too "Churchy" and theologically superficial for my taste, Hansen's writing is always engaging a I am an abiding and deeply appreciative fan of the film adaptation of The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford, and I also enjoyed Mariette in Ecstasy for its stalwart ambiguity. A Stay Against Confusion contains some lovely essays which give some deeper understanding to these works, and I some of the thought processes of a fine American writer. While some parts of it can be a little too "Churchy" and theologically superficial for my taste, Hansen's writing is always engaging and pleasurable.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Ron

    This is by the author of The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford, now a movie starring Brad Pitt. Mr. Hansen writes very cogently about the creative process and specifically writes concerning how one's beliefs - in his case, Christianity/Roman Catholicism - affect the creative process. There is a great essay on John Gardner, one of the best writers of the last half century. Worth reading for anyone who cares about the creative process and the impact of art on people. This is by the author of The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford, now a movie starring Brad Pitt. Mr. Hansen writes very cogently about the creative process and specifically writes concerning how one's beliefs - in his case, Christianity/Roman Catholicism - affect the creative process. There is a great essay on John Gardner, one of the best writers of the last half century. Worth reading for anyone who cares about the creative process and the impact of art on people.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Gil

    Hansen provides some good insights into writing about faith with the memoir as the medium - however his personal examples drift from the topic. The first half is worth the time if interested in writing.

  8. 5 out of 5

    AJ Nolan

    Excellent series of essays of writing by an excellent writer.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Edward Iwata

  10. 4 out of 5

    Wesley

  11. 5 out of 5

    Padraic

  12. 5 out of 5

    Claudia

  13. 5 out of 5

    Cindy Lange

  14. 5 out of 5

    Ted Oswald

  15. 4 out of 5

    Anne

  16. 5 out of 5

    Brian

  17. 4 out of 5

    Anthony

  18. 5 out of 5

    Diane Dreher

  19. 4 out of 5

    Rachael

  20. 5 out of 5

    Bonny

  21. 5 out of 5

    Rebecca

  22. 4 out of 5

    Vern

  23. 4 out of 5

    Dale

  24. 4 out of 5

    Lauren

  25. 5 out of 5

    Ginette

  26. 5 out of 5

    T.S.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Kevin

  28. 5 out of 5

    Christin Weber

  29. 5 out of 5

    Abc

  30. 5 out of 5

    TurtleneckGirl

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