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Remembering Denny Hardcover – April, 1993

3.8 out of 5 stars 24 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

In his most personal book, Trillin ( American Stories ) poignantly investigates the life of his Yale classmate and onetime close friend Roger "Denny" Hansen, a Rhodes scholar, academic and State Department employee whose extraordinary promise ended in middle age with his suicide. In brief, almost pointillistic chapters, Trillin isolates the darkness in Hansen's soul. At the same time he dissects his own expectations and those of his peers, examining the influence of an elite university in the sunny 1950s. At what Trillin calls a Big Chill session, Yale classmates recall Denny's hidden insecurity and dependence on accolades, while an adult friend remembers how Hansen's high standards for himself made him a recluse. Trillin learns for the first time that Hansen was gay, which leads him to reflections on his generation's homophobia. He reconstructs how Life magazine chose to profile Hansen at their graduation in 1957, muses on the burdens of a Rhodes scholarship and explores the moralistic Hansen's ineffectiveness as a Washington bureaucrat. "Part of what kept the issues simple is that we didn't spend a lot of time examining them," writes Trillin of the 1950s; here, in deceptively casual style, he redeems that indifference. BOMC selection.
Copyright 1993 Reed Business Information, Inc.

From Library Journal

In 1957 Denny Hansen had it all--a "dazzling" smile, a new Yale degree, an appointment as a Rhodes scholar, friends who regarded him practically as an icon, and a boundless future in an era when the sky seemed the limit for bright graduates. In 1991 he became a modern Richard Cory, taking his own life. Trillin, his Yale classmate, tries to determine what went so terribly wrong. However, in his search, we necessarily see so much more of the troubled later years than of the golden years that we ultimately lose sight of the magnitude of the change in Hansen. Expect demand where Trillin's works are popular; also, the public is always morbidly interested in fallen stars. Previewed in Prepub Alert, LJ 12/92.
- Jim Burns, Ottumwa, Ia.
Copyright 1993 Reed Business Information, Inc.
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 209 pages
  • Publisher: Farrar Straus & Giroux (T); 1st edition (April 1993)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0374226075
  • ISBN-13: 978-0374226077
  • Product Dimensions: 1 x 5.8 x 8.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 9.6 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (24 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #984,127 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Catherine S. Vodrey on September 14, 2002
Format: Paperback
Calvin Trillin's "Remembering Denny" is a Cheeveresque rumination on the unfulfilled potential of Trillin's Yale classmate, Denny Hansen. While at Yale, Hansen was so highly thought of that he was profiled in LIFE magazine and his classmates used to kid each other about which cabinet position they'd fill once Hansen had been elected President. After Yale, however, Hansen failed to live up to the high expectations everyone--friends, family, teachers, coaches--had for him. Trillin's book is a delicate examination of what that meant, both for Denny and for his constellation of friends and well-wishers.
Denny doesn't come alive as vividly as might be hoped here, but Trillin does an outstanding job of sketching this young man's life in terms of a larger picture about America. In a country where success on every level is much prized, Trillin subtly but thoroughly plumbs the reasons why Denny didn't succeed--at least not to the extent everyone thought he would. This uncharacteristically somber book is absorbing and thought-provoking, even if it doesn't quite reach the goals Trillin seems to have set for himself in the beginning chapters.
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By A Customer on December 22, 2002
Format: Paperback
The book is a whatdunit: what caused an Ivy League golden boy with a million dollar smile to commit suicide at age 55.
The boy was Denny Hansen. His family was lower middle class and lived in the San Francisco Bay area. At a public high school, he became all-everything. He attended Yale from 1953-57 where he became good friends with the author, Bud Trillin. There, he was a fifties hero: scholar-athlete, a student leader. and all-around good guy. He was a member of swim team, Deke fraternity and the Elizabethan Society. During his senior year, he was tapped by Scroll and Key. He graduated magna cum laude and was admitted to Phi Betta Kappa. Life Magazine published a photo essay about his graduation. He was selected as a Rhodes Scholar and studied two years at Magdalen College at Oxford. He received a master¹s degree from the Woodrow Wilson School at Princeton, Not bad for a young man with his background.
Denny Hansen became Roger D. Hansen. On the career level, he worked briefly in broadcasting, the State Department and at the National Security Council in the Carter administration. He wrote several books on foreign policy that were widely praised. But the Foreign Service rejected his application. Eventually, he was appointed to a chair at the Johns-Hopkins¹ School for Advanced International Studies in Washington. He was a member of the Cosmos Club and the Council on Foreign Relations. On a personal level, Roger never married. He became estranged from his family, his relationships with a few women soured, he gradually alienated his friends from Yale. He became a chronic complainer. He became very depressed. But he always defended right conduct. Near the end of his life, he lived a clandestine gay lifestyle.
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Format: Paperback
This book has haunted me for 10 years now. For Roger Dennis Hansen, there was the terrible pain of being in the closet for as long as he recognized he did not have feelings for girls that the other boys did, and that society said he should. And remember, in those days, you were some kind of monster for having same sex yearnings - take a look at the statistics.

And then there was the most basic indicator of failure, a deeply dysfunctional family life - no support, no love. One tries and tries to carry oneself with those external trophies, with the support of friends, employers and mentors, and that sometimes works for a while. But the basic perception of oneself is cast, and if there is no beaming, loving face in the mirror, no one is there really giving a damn about your welfare, you go as far as you can - sometimes you make it to the end of the road, but sometimes you crash before then. It is hard.

There is a little bit of Denny in a lot of us - I see him in me. I did not have the scholastic glory that this man had, which some of you think should have carried him through to ripe old age, but the similarities remain. This is not a book for ghouls, as Mr. "Jim Burns" opines, nor a treatise on how great Mr. Trillin is, as Mr. "A Reader" states. If anything, Mr. Trillin minces no words in how he failed Denny - I dare any of you to be that truthful about your own failings in your dealings with the humanity around you. A great book that transcends class and race lines, humor and ground floor truth an intoxicating mixture for me.
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Format: Hardcover
Trillin turns serious and reflects on a Yale classmate who seemed to have it all: a "dazzling smile," charm, brains, athletic talent. LIFE magazine covered Denny Hansen's graduation. But things didn't work out for Hansen, the expected future President, and he died a lonely, obscure professor in 1991. Trillin, in investigating Denny's path through life, draws larger lessons on larger themes than one man's life: struggling with closeted homosexuality; adjusting oneself to expectations that can never be met; growing up in the 1950's when the US in general and pedigreed white men in particular held all the cards. The book is many things: a biography, an autobiography of trillin, a social history, a remembrance of a tragic friend and a not-so-distant, but utterly vanished, era.
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