Cover image for A stay against confusion : essays on faith and fiction
A stay against confusion : essays on faith and fiction
Hansen, Ron, 1947-
Personal Author:
First edition.
Publication Information:
New York : HarperCollins Publishers, [2001]

Physical Description:
xvii, 267 pages ; 22 cm
Personal Subject:
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
PS3558.A5133 Z47 2001 Adult Non-Fiction Non-Fiction Area

On Order



In the tradition of Flannery O'Connor and Andre Dubus, A Stay Against Confusion explores the role that religious belief and literature play in one writer's life. All creative writing is, in the words of Robert Frost, "a stay against confusion." It tries to find a harmony and order that we only fleetingly detect beneath the chaos of everyday life, and to point out motivations and causalities in what seem to be random and often meaningless acts. Religion has also functioned in this way for Ron Hansen, and it shares with literature both a reverence for mystery and the use of metaphor to communicate another order that we will never fully perceive or comprehend.

In this rich and deeply felt collection of essays, Hansen talks about his novels, his childhood and family, and about such mentors 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. A surprisingly intimate book, A Stay Against Confusion brings together the literary and religious impulses that inform the life of one of our most gifted fiction writers.

Author Notes

Ron Hansen was born in Omaha Nebraska in 1947.He received a BA degree in English from Creighton University in Nebraska in 1970. He is the author of more than 20 books, stories, and anthologies. He received the Award in Literature from the American Academy and Institute of Arts and Letters for his book Nebraska, a collection of short fiction, in 1989. Some of his other works include Mariette in Ecstasy; the children's book, The Shadowmaker; Desperadoes; the Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford, which won the John Edgar Wideman Award in 1984; and the novel Atticus, a suspenseful murder mystery detailing a father's fierce love for his son. Atticus was a finalist for the National Book Award in 1996.

Among the anthologies written by Hansen are The Sun So Hot I Froze To Death, Can I Just Sit Here For A While?, and True Romance. His short stories, with titles ranging from "His Dog" to "Playland," have appeared in the Stanford Alumni Magazine, Atlantic Monthly, the Iowa Review, Esquire, and many others.

Besides holding Guggenheim and National Endowment for the Arts fellowships, Hansen has received a Lyndhurst Foundation Grant and is a fellow of the University of Michigan Society of Fellows. Hansen has also held the position of Gerald Manley Hopkins S.J. Professor of Arts and Humanities at Santa Clara University.

In May 2006 he was inducted into the College of Fellows at Dominican School of Philosophy and Theology. Also in that year The Assasination of Jesse James was adapted for the screen. In 2009 Mariette In Ecstasy was adapted for the stage at Lifetime Theater in Chicago.

(Bowker Author Biography)

Reviews 3

Booklist Review

Catholic fiction writer Hansen (Mariette in Ecstasy, 1991) collects his essays from literary journals and Catholic periodicals, revealing a spiritual journey and the maturation of a writer. There's an affectionate tribute to John Gardner, the larger-than-life novelist of the 1970s who is no longer widely read but who has reached mythological status among writers. Gardner embodied for Hansen the idea that writing or reading fiction is a kind of sacrament, or encounter of faith between God and the believer, that results in a moral awakening. And yet a Christian writer need not write about Christian subjects to offer a sacrament: he or she becomes an instrument of God simply by writing in a true and deeply felt way. In the essay "Eucharist," Hansen charts his own progression as a Christian, movingly drawing together the themes of his book while at the same time making clear his audience: writers of all persuasions and those who read fiction not to escape from the world but to consider its contradictions philosophically. --John Mort

Publisher's Weekly Review

In this rich, eloquent and thoughtful group of essays, literature professor and award-winning novelist Hansen (Atticus; Hitler's Niece) muses on the subjects of fiction writing and transcendent faith. "Writing," he claims, "can be viewed as a sacrament insofar as it provides graced occasions of encounter between humanity and God." Hansen sees both the act of writing and the Catholic sacraments as experiences to be lived more than interpreted. When the two are completely defined and understood, they lose their mystery and power. Hansen explores the writings and life of his friend John Gardner, the poetry of Gerard Manley Hopkins, Leo Tolstoy's "Master and Man" and Isak Dinesen's story "Babette's Feast," along with the latter's film version. Along the way he speaks of Jesus' parables, the Old Testament story of Cain and Abel, St. Ignatius of Loyola, the Jesuit martyrs of El Salvador, the Eucharist, the stigmata, the Anima Christi prayer and his grandfather. Through all these seemingly disparate narrative threads, Hansen helps readers achieve a glimpse of grace and God. He speaks of his own strong Irish Catholic upbringing (pre- and post-Vatican II) and how its traditions have enhanced his life and writing, even when he was in the "insubordination" phase of his life. Anyone who is passionate about good writing, or perchance sees it as a holy exercise, will agree with Hansen that good fiction can enrich spiritual faith. This is a deeply satisfying read. (Apr.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Library Journal Review

In this collection of 14 academic essays, screenwriter, Catholic apologist, and historical novelist Hansen (Hitler's Niece, The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford) explores his life, his career, and the role of fiction and literature in coping with the mysteries of life. "Looking back on my childhood now," he writes, "I find that churchgoing and religion were in good part the origin of my vocation as a writer." For the author, both writing and religious practice scrutinize, interpret, simplify, and refine truths that would otherwise be incomplete or elusive. Writing, as one essay declares, can be considered a sacrament, while another calls it a form of prayer. Other essays honor writer John Gardner and weave biography into a discussion of the Eucharist. Like author Jan Karon, Hansen declares that his first concern is good writing and the avoidance of sermonizing or formulaic "Christian fiction." Appropriate for academic or public libraries. [Previewed in Prepub Alert, LJ 12/00.] Nancy P. Shires, East Carolina Univ., Greenville, NC (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.