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A Stay Against Confusion: Essays on Faith and Fiction Paperback – March 26, 2002

ISBN-13: 978-0060956684 ISBN-10: 0060956682 Edition: Reprint

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Harper Perennial; Reprint edition (March 26, 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0060956682
  • ISBN-13: 978-0060956684
  • Product Dimensions: 5.3 x 0.6 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 14.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (9 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,124,912 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com 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 --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Publishers Weekly

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.

Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information, Inc.

--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Customer Reviews

3.6 out of 5 stars

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

45 of 45 people found the following review helpful By Rev. Michael A. Renninger on May 1, 2001
Format: Hardcover
It was a happy fault. I tend to buy too many books at the mega-stores, and during a recent visit to Nebraska I saw Ron Hansen's newest book right near the door as I walked in. To be honest, it was the cover that first attracted my eye. To be even more honest, it was the writing that caused me to stay up half the night. I could not stop until I had read the whole book in one sitting. "A Stay Against Confusion" is a marvelous collection of essays from a talented and insightful author. I cannot think of another contemporary writer who so thoroughly combines a talent for his craft with the kind of "Catholic Imagination" that informed the work of people like Georges Bernanos, Flannery O'Connor and Grahame Green. But don't worry - this is NOT a collection of essays designed just for Roman Catholics! Hansen has a 'sacramental' world view - he is in touch with the mystery that shimmers just below the surface of things, and his writing helps us to encounter that. I found myself looking at the world differently after I read this book. His essay on the movie "Babette's Feast" gave me new language to describe a film that I have always loved. His essay on the Jesuit martyrs of Central America challenged my comfortable lifestyle, and drew me into the reality of suffering. The several essays on the craft and vocation of writing reveal some of the inner workings of a creative mind - a mind at once deeply rooted in the here-and-now, but at the smae time open to mysteries bigger than our categories. His concluding essay on the Eucharist will speak to believers and non believers alike. Again, this is not a "spirituality book" designed for a selective audience.Read more ›
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14 of 15 people found the following review helpful By R. W. Rasband VINE VOICE on March 13, 2003
Format: Paperback
Ron Hansen shows his cards in "A Stay Against Confusion." He reveals himself to be a passionately spiritual writer; this world is not the only one that exists in his fiction. I greatly enjoyed his westerns, "Desperadoes" and "Jesse James", without really getting the underlying archetypal structure in them (Hansen says his treatment of "the dirty little coward" Robert Ford is a consideration of the Judas story.) But in "Marriette in Ecstasy" and the unforgettable historical novel "Hitler's Niece", Hansen wrote about the extremes of good and evil in an unmistakably religious way. But his novels aren't heavy-handed, "faith-promoting" tracts; they are alive and as necessarily ambiguous and multifaceted as the best fiction is.
This collection of essays explores Hansen's thinking about faith and fiction. He is a Catholic of the Vatican II variety, but this isn't an obstacle for people of other traditions to get him. He's a terrific writer. His prose is as sharp and clear as a diamond and he's a gifted storyteller. Indeed, in "What Stories Are And Why We Read Them" he insists that fiction musn't be didactic (as a lot of religious-based fiction is.) You can't beat readers over the head; they have to be carefully led into caring *what happens next.* (This concern over reader accessibility also sets him apart from many contemporary writers.) In "Faith and Fiction" he describes how we use stories in order to figure out the world, to deduce principles that we can live by. A story can be the vehicle for the Holy Spirit to touch our lives; an occasion for grace. In "The Wizard" he remembers the late, rambunctious novelist and critic John Gardner, who was a mentor, and tries to put him into perspective (warts and all.
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14 of 15 people found the following review helpful By Alfred J. Garrotto on June 24, 2001
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I bought this book based on its subtitle (Essays on Faith and Fiction) and on my appreciation for Ron Hansen as a faith-filled writer. I expected it to be more about the integration of faith and fiction, and I loved the sections dedicated to that topic. As an author myself, I feel a kinship with Hansen in that I too write fiction from a faith perspective. I felt a little bit cheated by the chapters on Hansen's family members, but moved deeply by the story of the murdered Jesuits in El Salvador. That's why I rate this book "almost great." I don't fault the author but rather my own expectation that it would be something more than it was. All in all, I'm happy to have the book in my library, and much of it is highlighted in yellow.
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11 of 12 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on April 29, 2001
Format: Hardcover
I found these essays fascinating, both for Hansen's general insights concerning the relationship between religious faith and writing, as well as for an opportunity to read about the background behind such wonderful novels as Mariette in Ecstasy and Atticus. Hansen is known as a stylist, a writer of beautiful prose, but he is also, apparently, a fine weaver of essays and ideas. I loved this book.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Amazon Customer VINE VOICE on May 2, 2006
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I have always enjoyed Hansen's books, his unique style. This collection of essays was a treat. As I read each one, I thought it was so remarkable, and then I would read the next essay and like it even more. I especially liked the one about his mentor, John Gardner, the one about Hopkins (does any Margaret not like Hopkins?), the one about Cain, the one about Anima Christi, the one about Tolstoy, the one about Ignatius of Loyola, the one about...oh wait, I am listing the whole book, accidentally. That means I loved every one of these essays. Mr. Hansen not only has the gift of writing, but he also discusses his faith very well. I recommend this book highly to anyone interested in writing, or interested in living the examined life.
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