Nebraska Center for Writers

Chimney Rock What the Critics Say
About Ron Hansen


The Assassination of Jesse James
by the Coward Robert Ford
Copyright © 1983
by Ron Hansen
Alfred A Knopf

It is 1881. Jesse James, at the age of 34, is at the height of his fame and powers as a singularly successful outlaw. Robert Ford is the skittish younger brother of one of the James gang: he has made himself an expert on the gang, but his particular interest — his obsession — is Jesse James himself. Both drawn to him and frightened of him, the nineteen-year-old is uncertain whether he wants to serve James or destroy him or, somehow, become him.
Never have these two men been portrayed and their saga explored with such poetry, such grim precision and such raw-boned feeling as Ron Hansen has brought to this masterful retelling. — from the jacket

Wonderful. This is great storytelling, not undermined by our knowing how it turns out. The reader is driven — by story and by language and by history...the best blend of fiction and history I've read in a long while! — John Irving

Vivid and sustained. — New York Times Book Review

As he did in Desperadoes...Ron Hansen has turned low history into high art. This is a terrific book. — Newsday

Recalls the literature of Americana by John Steinbeck, Erskine Caldwell, Willa Cather, and Hamlin Garland.... Hansen has broadened our perception of the West in much the same way as the best historians ... and proven himself one of our finest stylists of American historical fiction. — The Christian Science Monitor

Here is the James book. Let your prize $1,000 mint copy of Jake Spencer's Life and Career of Frank and Jesse James (published a week after the outlaw's death) repose peacefully on your shelf of scarce Americana. Put Hansen on your bedside table. — Richmond News-Leader

Retells the familiar stories, making them fresh, finding in them an unresolvable mystery and tragedy about fame and ambition in America. This book is a wonderful achievement. — San Francisco Chronicle

The language of Hansen's novel is dense and textured, requiring careful reading. The pleasure of the book is in the eloquence of its dialogue and description, which are both literary and historically appropriate. —

A thickly textured novel [that] seems to hover deliberately between fiction and biography.... [Hansen has] crafted a very effective novel — Peter S Prescott, Newsweek

A first-rate piece of craftsmanship that gives off the aura of legend without ever letting us succumb to any sentimental or ignorant aspects — Alan Cheuse, Los Angeles Times Book Review

Hansen continues his tales of the real West with his imaginative retelling of the life of the most famous outlaw of them all, Jesse James, and of his death at the hands of the upstart Robert Ford. —

Copyright © 1996
by Ron Hansen

Ron Hansen's deeply affecting new novel opens in winter on the high plains of Colorado, where rancher Atticus Cody receives an unexpected visit from his wayward young son. An artist and wanderer, Scott has recently settled into a life of heavy drinking and recklessness among expatriates and Mexicans in the little town of Resurreccion on the Caribbean coast. Weeks later, Atticus himself goes down to Mexico to recover the body of his son, thinking he has committed suicide. Puzzled by what he finds in Resurreccion, he begins to suspect that Scott has been murdered.
Atticus is the story of a father's fierce love for his son, a love so steadfast and powerful that it bends the impersonal forces of destiny to its own will. As Atticus uncovers the story of his son's death, fitting together the pieces of the mosaic that was Scott's life in Mexico — and encountering a group of disturbing characters along the way — he suffers a father's grief and rage, but is driven forward in his quest to understand by the even more powerful force of a father's love.
Written in the sensuous prose style of Ron Hansen's earlier works of fiction, Atticus is a suspenseful murder mystery, as vivid and precise in its imagery as the highly acclaimed Mariette in Ecstasy. Illuminating those often obscure chambers of the human heart, Atticus is finally a novel about deeply rooted, almost unfathomable love, a mystery that Ron Hansen's fiction explores with a passion and intensity no reader will be able to resist. — from the jacket

Ron Hansen has again given us a superbly crafted and compelling novel which is at once a timeless meditation and a fast-paced, cinematic work of fiction. Here's a family drama, novel of manners, detective story, and religious parable all rolled into one. Atticus's splendid prose cadences and imagery (stark and lush by turns) will take you from winter in Colorado to the tropics of Mexico, as well as from the realm of the whodunit detective mystery to the larger realm of the Mystery, which has its own heartbreaking, consoling, and redemptive logic. Here is a worthy and surprising successor to Mariette in Ecstasy which will likewise continue to reverberate in the reader's imagination long after the last page has been turned. — Paul Mariani, author of Lost Puritan: The Life of Robert Lowell and Salvage Operations: New & Selected Poems

Masterful versatility...increasingly gripping plot. — Publishers Weekly (starred review)

Atticus is a wrenching journey thorugh grief and loss. ... With terse dialogue and cunning understatement, Hansen impresses an indelible image of father and son, and dramatizes the issues that caused the breach between them. ... All this is accomplished in prose niether labored nor rushed. — The Nation

A finely crafted, character-driven piece of literature. — Orlando Sentinel

Atticus is a play on the parable of the prodigal son, and it will chill the soul of any father who has seen a son drift away into some unspeakable hell he cannot begin to fathom. It is fair to say that with Atticus, Ron Hansen has made a significant contribution toward our understanding of a father's endless capacity to love his son. — Hemphill

Hansen has created a superb novel....He has the rare ability to tell a story that leaves readers asking questions long after they have put down the book. — Houston Chronicle

At once a moving character study, a murder mystery, a portrait of expatriate life south of the border and, ultimately, an examination of the mysteries of the human heart. Its achingly beautiful portrayal of a difficult father-son relationship is rendered with the sensuous detail and the grace that characterize all of Hansen's writing. — Publishers Weekly

Astonishing's style is so fresh; and Hansen has the ability to make it seem effortless, natural. — Elmore Leonard

Breathlessly eloquent....[A] compelling tale. — Entertainment Weekly

The novel is charged with Atticus's love for his deeply different son, and it is on that love that that narrative rights itself more than once when nearly capsized by the combination of the restrictive forces of mystery novels and Hansen's relentlessly poetic language. That Atticus loves Scott without reservation is welcome in the Western genre, so fraught with uncommunicative fathers and their equally reticent sons. And Hansen's depiction of Atticus's internal reflections is so finely drawn as to make the fiercely loyal and decent Atticus seem purely real. — The Book

Transforming the parable of the prodigal son into a contemporary story of tragic carelessness and deceit, Hansen brings new and moving insights to the theme of parental love and forgiveness. Combining aspects of a murder mystery and ranging in setting f rom a Colorado ranch to a Mexican village, the plot culminates in a shocking surprise. A lively mystery plot functions as a masque over the sustaining metaphor of the book. From skillful grace notes in the beginning, which increase throughout, to a final, bold statement, the parable of a father's changeless love for the son who flees and returns is powerfully evoked. — BookWire

Ron Hansen has proven himself a master of the enigmatic, particularly that crack in the world between belief and reality. — Boston Globe

Atticus's travails never become maudlin, and the truth, when it comes, is faultlessly clever. — The New Yorker

Compelling....Thoughtful. The theme of departure and attempted return is played out with poetic sensitivity by both son and father throughout the novel. — San Francisco Chronicle

The plot of Ron Hansen's (Mariette in Ecstasy) new novel takes three sharp turns. It begins as a conventional novel about the relationship between a father and his troubled adult son. After one character dies, it zigs into a murder mystery, and by the end has zagged into something entirely different, a parable, let's say, in which characters find redemption. Atticus, like To Kill a Mockingbird's Atticus Finch, a connection Hansen plays with, appears at first to be a remote and judgmental dad, but as we observe the gentle, persistent concern he shows for his wayward son Scott, we discover nothing less than the ideal dad. Somehow Hansen makes him believable as well. Scott's testing of his father's love goes way beyond normal bounds: his alcoholism and general irresponsibility actually cause the deaths of several other characters. Scott's peregrinations take Atticus from his home in Colorado to the slums and bohemian underworld of a Mexican town. There, like Graham Greene's heroes, Atticus confronts a seamy and labyrinthine corruption that tries to separate him from the love of his son. Atticus, the Father, won't let go, and that's the point. Hansen daringly uses the conventional mystery genre to convey a lot more mystery — about love, family bonds, and faith — than it usually attempts, and he pulls it off. — Cleveland Free Times

Atticus goes to Mexico to recover the body of his dead son, and is compelled to investigate the circumstances of his son's suicide. Hansen (author of Mariette in Ecstacy) weaves a story that is both an intriguing mystery and a moving portrayal of a father's love. — Kara Jernstrom, Bookshop Santa Cruz

Hansen opens his novel with a surprise for Atticus. Scott has arrived unexpectedly for Christmas. The scenes between this very different father and son are muted but touching: "Were Atticus to talk honestly, he thought, he'd say he was alone all the time and that this was his son whom he loved and ached for, and heaven was where he was, and Atticus hated himself, as he always did, for insisting and teaching and holding up standards and seeming to want Scott to be him, when all he wanted was for Scott to be happy and to know that he was loved and loved and loved." In context, this is not sloppy sentiment at all; this is what the stoic Atticus cannot let himself say. Though certainly a man of quiet integrity — his name seems a nod to the noble Atticus Finch of "To Kill a Mockingbird" — he has not learned to convey his love to his son. Hansen gives us a son who is not simply troubled; he's also bright, sensitive, funny and almost desperate to make sense of his life. — Newsday

Mr Hansen writes vigorously, and like an angel. — Janet Burroway, New York Times Book Review

A superbly written novel. ... Irrefutably confirms [Hansen's] awesome's gifts. — Miami Herald

Copyright © 1979
by Ron Hansen
Alfred A Knopf

Emmet Dalton is the soul survivor of the Dalton gang, and at the age of sixty-five, he has become a legend in the eyes of Hollywood. A genuine outlaw, Emmet makes a living by selling his stories to movie studios, detailing the outrageous times he and his brothers shared in the Wild West. Desperadoes is Emmet's reminiscences of the murders, bootleggings, and thievery he committed with his partners in crime: brother Bob, the beautiful blue-eyed romantic who killed for love without blinking an eye; the insane and trigger-happy brother Grat, so frightening he even scared his own family; and Eugenia Moore, the schoolmarm turned strategist for the whole operation. Ron Hansen expertly uses his sharp pen and authoritative voice to evoke the excitement and grit of the Dalton gang's exploits while deromanticizing these violent times so relished by Hollywood. — from the jacket

Ah, but this is one splendid book, the sort of thing you have been waiting for since you read The Ox-Bow Incident. Gunsmoke for literate adults. — George V. Higgins, New York Magazine

A tale of violent adventure, Desperadoes also is an elegy, a moving, yearning remembrance of a time both glorious and bitter. — Los Angeles Times

This is one terrific book ... Gunsmoke for literate adults. — New York

[A] spirited first novel. ... Hansen is out to dazzle and he does. His dialogue has a clipped eloquence. — Newsweek

[Hansen has] written seriously about the West, proving himself one of our finest stylists of American historical fiction. — Christian Science Monitor

Hansen writes with a sure hand about the inner lives of people struggling to find themselves in a confusing world. His prose is at once straightforward and seductive....we are mesmerized as riddles beget further riddles and layers of the story begin to peel away. — Los Angeles Times Book Review

Desperadoes is a tour-de-force, a rousing adventure story, an historical novel, and a serious work of literature written with consummate skill. — Western American Literature

Hansen punches through the scrim of legend to make dead bones walk again. The Daltons and their sidekicks pulse with life. ... He has elevated the Daltons to a level of history — and art — beyond their own expectations. ... one of the great prose entertainments of recent years. ... supple and vigorous, witty and charming, full of surprises without straining for them." — Geoffrey Wolff, Esquire

Spectacular. ... Imagery so vivid it raises goose-bumps. — Washington Post

Authentic-feeling evocations of America's West. — Frederick Busch, Chicago Tribune

The force of the narrative comes from Ron Hansen's ability to rein his language in. His writing is never lazy or imprecise. ... [Hansen's] writing is so accomplished and the book has such an authoritative tone that one finds it difficult to think of [Desperadoes] as a first novel — Jerome Charyn, New York Times Book Review

Gorgeously vivid and precise....Both Desperadoes and The Assassination of Jesse James are spectacular feats of writing ... [Hansen is] is a major writer. — Philadelphia Inquirer

Breathtaking virtuosity. ... With its wit, originality and astonishinig grace, Hansen's work belongs in the best tradition of truly American literature. — Publishers Weekly

Formidable narrative powers. ... Thoroughly authentic. — Boston Globe

Hansen at his best enables us to believe that beyond the quiet beauty of the commonplace are worlds of infinite variation, more mysterious and sometimes more threatening than our daily routines permit us to sense except through fiction. — Los Angeles Times Book Review

Copyright © 2008
by Ron Hansen
Farrar, Straus and Giroux

With Exiles, Ron Hansen tells the story of a notorious shipwreck that prompted Gerard Manley Hopkins to break years of “elected silence” with an outpouring of dazzling poetry.
In December 1875 the steamship Deutschland left Bremen, bound for England and then America. On board were five young nuns who, exiled by Bismarck's laws against Catholic religious orders, were going to begin their lives anew in Missouri. Early one morning, the ship ran aground in the Thames and more than sixty lives were lost—including those of the five nuns.
Hopkins was a Jesuit seminarian in Wales, and he was so moved by the news of the shipwreck that he wrote a grand poem about it, his first serious work since abandoning a literary career at Oxford to become a priest. He too would die young, an exile from the literary world. But as Hansen’s gorgeously written account of Hopkins’s life makes clear, he fulfilled his calling. — from the publisher
Combining a thrilling tragedy at sea with the seeming shipwreck of Hopkins’s own life, Exiles joins Hansen's Mariette in Ecstasy (called “an astonishingly deft and provocative novel” by The New York Times) as a novel that dramatizes the passionate inner search of religious life and makes it accessible to us in the way that only great art can.

Delivering a deft blend of literary biography and disaster tale, Hansen ... wrings a white-knuckled drama out of the lives of the poet/priest and five extraordinary German women. — Publishers Weekly

An exquisite, elegiac novel about Gerard Manley Hopkins's composition of the poem "The Wreck of the Deutschland," as well as the five nuns whose death in the wreck inspired it. A glorious work about tragedy, creativity and literal and metaphorical shipwrecks. — Kirkus Reviews

... amazing ... you will perhaps glimpse the world, for a few days, with new eyes, and be reminded, as Hopkins writes, "There lives the dearest freshness deep down things. — Carolyn See, The Washington Post

Hitler's Niece
Copyright © 1999
by Ron Hansen

Hailed as "brilliant" (Chicago Tribune) and as "a writer who takes your breath away" (Detroit News), National Book Award Finalist Ron Hansen has written an intense and compelling new novel that evokes the mysterious relationship between Adolf Hitler and his much younger niece, Geli Raubal, with whom he fell in love.
Hitler in love? Only a writer with Ron Hansen's impressive gifts could transport us into this dark and disturbing territory. Based on careful historical research, Hitler's Niece portrays Hitler as his family and friends must have seen him. As the novel unfolds, a troubling pas de deux between the politically ambitious, emotionally stunted leader and his high-spirited, flirtatious niece takes place against the backdrop of Hitler's rise to prominence and power. Written from Geli's point of view, Hitler's Niece is mesmerizing, heartwrenching, and absolutely original; a masterpiece of fiction. — from the jacket

On September 18, 1931 Angelika (Geli) Raubal, the niece of Adolf Hitler, was found dead in her room in her uncle's flat, his pistol lying nearby. For the Nazis, the death represented a most unfortunate dilemma. If she was a murder victim, then the Fuhrer would likely be a prime suspect. If she was a suicide, there could be embarrassing questions about why she decided to take her own life — especially since she and her uncle seemed to have such a "close" relationship. In the end, the Nazi leadership went with the suicide ploy, but over the years questions have lingered. Hansen's historically based novel offers one plausible scenario, that Hitler himself murdered her in a fit of anger over her attempts to escape his smothering jealousy. Using a variety of sources, including the memoirs and testimony of several of the principals involved, he attempts to dissect the nature of their relationship and show how such a conclusion is reasonable. When done well, fiction can make history seem more personal and alive. This work fits that category. — Library Journal

Rooted in historical fact, Hansen's riveting portrait of the century's most malevolent figure blossoms in the realm of fiction, a true flower of evil. ... Hansen's insightful, brilliantly interpretative, and frightening novel does more to illuminate the welter of evil that fueled Hitler than a dozen biographies. — Booklist

In this dazzling new novel, National Book Award-winning author Ron Hansen evokes the startling relationship between Adolph Hitler and his much younger niece, Geli Raubal, whose mysterious death at the age of 23 has never been fully explained. — The Publisher

Midway through the novel, the confluence of historical event and personal destiny becomes mesmerizing, as we perceive the torment of a sexually molested, psychologically manipulated woman, isolated and virtually imprisoned by a jealously possessive monster. The finale imagines Geli's death in a completely credible way, and leaves us with fresh insights into Hitler's twisted personality. The reader forgives the occasional longueurs in this textured picture of Hitler's histrionic personality and his insane mission for glory, presaging the genocide to come in the cold-blooded obliteration of one young woman''s life. — Publisher's Weekly

[A] microscopically researched narrative of Hitler's Munich years, hung on the hook of the Fuhrer's "love" affair with with his gorgeous (and real-life) half-niece. ... Down to the smallest detail (a hint of blood on his toothbrush) a fictional rendering of the love-life and psychology of the historic monster. — Kirkus Reviews

Hitler’s Niece is based on a few crumbs of historical fact. Adolf Hitler did have a half-niece with whom he was in love, and she died under mysterious circumstances in Hitler’s Munich flat in September 1931, shortly before the Nazis took power. From these few crumbs, novelist Ron Hansen has constructed an entire meal that is satisfying in every way. — Seattle Times

In her poem "Hitler's First Photograph," Wislawa Szymborska, the Nobel Prize-winning Polish poet, asks: "And who's this little fellow in his itty-bitty robe? / That's tiny baby Adolf, the Hitlers' little boy! ... / Where will those tootsy-wootsies finally wander? / To a garden, to a school, to an office, to a bride?"
In Hitler's Niece, Ron Hansen, the author of Mariette in Ecstasy and The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford, among other books, seeks to answer those questions, which in the end boil down to — how human are the inhuman? — Richard Lourie, New York Times Book Review

Hitler's Niece is an act of sustained speculation about a small, horrifying domestic drama that took place while a much larger evil was unfolding; Hansen's achievement is to vividly portray one as symptom of the other. Some readers will find the book a grotesque travesty that tries to humanize the demonic, but because of its mixture of historical detail and pyschological nuance it rings true. — The New Yorker

A carefully crafted and distinctly macabre work of fiction. — Village Voice

Hansen has written a convincing novel that is provocative, disturbing and illuminating. — Raleigh News & Observer

Hansen's fictional tour de force. — Time

A daunting feat, an accomplished writer testing his faith by looking evil directly in the eye. — Chicago Tribune

Scrupulously researched. Hansen's informed interpretation of events makes convincing, if melancholy, reading. — The Boston Sunday Globe

A novel that reads like history. — The Austin American-Statesman

A brilliant, chilling account. — Entertainment Weekly

An accomplished writer testing his faith by looking evil directly in the eye. — Chicago Tribune

Hansen has researched not only the case itself but its political and social background in meticulous detail … that carries complete conviction. — Los Angeles Times Book Review

Hansen is a fearless storyteller. … [He] creates a savagely human portrait of Hitler. … [Hitler's Niece] reads, like all good books, as a vehicle for the writer's obsession — an intelligent, haunting, and oddly devotional exploration of the unimaginable — Hitler in love. — BookForum

Isn't It Romantic?
Copyright © 2003
by Ron Hansen

Once again, acclaimed novelist Ron Hansen demonstrates his masterful versatility as a writer, with Isn't It Romantic?, a screwball comedy in the tradition of filmmaker Preston Sturges. In this charming entertainment, mistaken identities, botched schemes, and hilarious misunderstandings all play a part as Parisian sophistication collides with the affability and simple pleasures of the Great Plains.
Touring America was Natalie's idea. But she had not planned on being accompanied on a cross-country bus by her playboy fiancé, Pierre. Nor had they anticipated being stranded in Seldom, Nebraska, population 395.
But that is exactly what happens to this French couple, and they quickly find themselves being taken in by the obliging citizens of Seldom: Natalie by Mrs. Christiansen, a retired high school teacher who runs a rooming house for women, and Pierre by Owen, a gas station owner and ambitious winemaker in an unlikely part of the world.
And here also, the separated couple become enchanted by the locals. Natalie is soon being wooed by Dick Tupper, a handsome and honest rancher with a rambling farmhouse and lots of wide open space. Pierre falls quickly for Iona, a beautiful, no-nonsense waitress in the local diner.
Soon everyone is hatching plots to get what they want: Owen needs help from Pierre's world-class wine business if he is ever going to sell his Nebraska vintage; Pierre wants Iona; Natalie thinks she wants Dick Tupper, but maybe it's Dick who wants Iona, and Natalie who wants Pierre? The fun and surprises are many in this playful romance. — from the jacket

Ron Hansen's Isn’t It Romantic? is a lively, affectionate and often poetic romp. It made me laugh out loud. — Bob Kerrey

A pleasant diversion. — Kirkus Reviews

Ersatz French culture and aw-shucks Americana collide in this corny romantic comedy. — Publishers Weekly

Fans of the serious literary novelist (Atticus, 1995; Hitler's Niece, 1999) are in for a delightful surprise here. . . . Hansen shows the true reach of his talent, displaying a rare deft touch in an inspired comedy that will have readers laughing out loud. Completely charming. — Booklist

This light, charming, and humorous romp will bring a smile to the face of even the most love-jaded reader. — Library Journal

The tiny town of Seldom is truly a funny place. — New York Times Book Review

[A] sweet, light, exhilarating flight of fancy. — New York Times

Hilarious . . . [Isn’t It Romantic?] is irreverent and laugh-out-loud funny . . . further proof of the author's phenomenal range and talent. — San Francisco Chronicle

A treat …[Isn’t It Romantic?] has both sophisticated and down-homey humor . . . with laugh out loud scenes. — People

Ron Hansen's fine, funny novel Isn’t It Romantic? is a light-as-a-feather melange of romance, farce and folksy foolishness. — Philadelphia Inquirer

Hilarious . . . be prepared to be unexpectedly charmed, delighted . . . touched. — Charlotte Observer

Mariette in Ecstasy
Copyright © 1991
by Ron Hansen
In 1906 a beautiful seventeen-year-old postulant enters the convent of the Sisters of the Crucifixion in upstate New York. When she begins to bleed from hands, feet, and side, the entire community is thrown into turmoil. Is Mariette a cunning sham, or sexually hysterical, or does God stalk her like a pitiless lover? Mariette in Ecstasy is a stunning immersion into the society of a small convent at the turn of the century, where a mysterious and ultimately harrowing world lies beneath the lovely, placid surface of everyday life.
With Mariette in Ecstasy, critically acclaimed author Ron Hansen again powerfully demonstrates his gift for brilliantly recreating a time and place. As intriguing as The Name of the Rose, as sensually hypnotic as Marguerite Duras's The Lover, this is an intimate portrait of an intractable fate, and it raises provocative questions about the complex nature of passionate faith.
Exquisitely crafted, Mariette in Ecstasy is a spellbinding novel that marks a new level of achievement in one of our most gifted writers. — from the jacket

Authoritative prose. ... In this quiet and forceful study of religious passion, Hansen places an extraordinary spiritual experience in the center of a deftly evoked natural world. — Publishers Weekly

Mariette Precise, passionate and remarkably compelling. — Seattle Times

Nothing quite prepares us for this novel's blend of sensuous beauty and self-restraint. Hansen's research fills it with the wine of intimate detail without spilling an excess drop; his personality vanishes into those of his characters. He disdains all easy ironies. Indeed, Mariette's miraculous experiences are presented as real. This book will appeal to unbelievers as a study of group dynamics, an introduction to convent life and a story of personal tragedy; it also can be read as a genuine work of devotion. — Los Angeles Times

Probes the boundaries of the experience of transcendence as it invades — and duly disrupts — the environs of one of the church's oldest institutions, the cloistered monastic life for women. Hansen's sparse prose is compelling and actually borders on the poetic. — Elizabeth McDonough

Mr Hansen succeeds — miraculously, it is tempting to say — in sustaining his portrait of Mariette's spirituality as well as her charm amid this drama. ... The novel pulls its taut plot-thread smartly along from start to finish...It is a testament to Mr. Hansen's art that it is possible to weep for Mariette's lost glory as if for the death of a great love. — Patricia Hampl, New York Times

Hansen's descriptions are ... hypnotically beautiful. — San Francisco Chronicle

Precise, passionate and remarkably compelling. — Seattle Times

It is a spare and delicate book, crafted, one senses, word by word, shaped to the hand. The result is a lyrical intensity so complete that readers submit to it as few novels can make them do. — Newsday

A writer who takes your breath away. — Detroit News

Brilliant. — Chicago Tribune

Implicitly in the earlier novels, explicitly in Mariette in Ecstasy, Hansen writes to inspire awe. — Village Voice

A lavishly praised bestseller through seven printings and 35,000 copies in print, Mariette in Ecstasy is the provocatively rendered story of a young postulant's claim to divine possession and religious ecstasy. —

A slim, luminous novel that burns a laser-bright picture into the reader's imagination, forcing one to reassess the relationship between madness and divine possession, gullibility and faith, sexual rapture and religious ecstasy....Though considerable space is devoted in this novel to Roman Catholic beliefs and liturgy, one need hardly be familiar with that church's teachings to be moved and amazed by this fable. With Mariette in Ecstasy, Mr. Hansen has written an astonishingly deft and provocative novel. — Michiko Kakutani, New York Times Book Review

Ron Hansen has written a novel whose language is so exquisite that the book runs the danger of being praised only for its diamond-like prose, which is often as pleasing as the most crystalline poetry. And yet Mariette in Ecstasy is not solely a novel of sensibility, a mere esthete's exercise. For while its descriptions dazzle, they never preen or degenerate into overblown virtuoso riffs. The greatest beauty — and the fundamental success — of this gripping novel is that its author has managed to find a voice that is entirely at the service of its strange and elusive subject. ... There's more to this book than breathtaking descriptions; there's also a cliffhanger of a story. ... Astonishingly deft and provocative. — Patricia Hampl, New York Times Book Review

The effect is engrossing. Hansen writes a beautiful prose. — Newsweek

Exquisitely crafted. From its first ghostly image of the moon to its final, jolting glimpse of Mariette in late middle age, this is an astonishing novel, maybe even a great one and further proof that Ron Hansen is a writer of enormous sensitivity, finesse and reach; he doesn't just evoke time and place, he actually seems to transport you there. And then take you straight into the human heart. ... A+. — Tom DeHaven, Entertainment Weekly

Copyright © 1989
by Ron Hansen
Atlantic Monthly P

Nebraska is the first collection of stories from the acclaimed Ron Hansen, whose first novel, Desperadoes was hailed as "true American poetry" (Robert Coover) and as "one of the great prose entertainments of recent years" (Geoffrey Wolff, Esquire). Hansen's novel The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford "recalls the literature of Americana by John Steinbeck, Erskine Caldwell, Willa Cather, and Hamlin Garland" (The Christian Science Monitor).
The resonant diction of his earlier work echoes through Nebraska, while the stories comprise a stunning diversity, revealing new dimensions of Hansen's talent. His "story-telling of the highest order" (San Francisco Chronicle) here produces eleven gemlike tales, compressed and pure, ranging from the blue heart of the Blizzard of 1888, to the sweltering jungles of war, from the twisted mind of a killer, to the tormented mind of a psychic who cannot tune out her new house's hateful past. Each world is opened with his "precision and economy and genuine poetic gift" (The Miami Herald), and each voice rings true, speaking with haunting and lasting clarity.
From the dazzle of a picture-perfect amusement park just after "our boys" come home, to a farmwife haunted by something out there destroying the cattle, these stories move between the familiar and the bizarre. From an old hit man hunted down by the new kid in town, to a petty thief who loves and leaves his closest friend, his dog. Or from the failed life of a suburbanite, to the comforting transcendence found by an old man on his golf course. Hansen illuminates them all with startling lucidity.
And in the final and title story of this collection, Hansen walks us through the streets and history of the quintessential, nameless Nebraska town, by the railroad tracks, the pickup trucks, the Dairy Queen and the grain silos, and to the room of the man who lies awake, listening: "and over the sighing industry of the train, he can hear the train saying, Nebraska, Nebraska, Nebraska, Nebraska, and he cannot sleep." — from the jacket

Unforgettable stories, each utterly diffferent from the one before. ... This is writing that slows the breathing. — San Francisco Chronicle

Extraordinary ... the work of an accomplished craftsman and a superb storyteller. The title story is an absolutely stunning portrayal of a physical place on the Earth. Nebraska — the state, the place — takes on the attributes of a living force, a character in itself, and the effect is a powerful, almost supernatural personification of geography and human culture. You watch the small prairie towns as they live and die. You hear the land breathing, the sound of the wind, the rush of trains across the empty flatness of a Nebraska midnight. In all, it's the book I expected from Ron Hansen — rich in its art, high in its thematic reach, resonating with the complexities of a dense and fully realized fictional world. — Tim O'Brien

Beautifully crafted stories. ... Wickedness, evil, malice is called by name; and for Hansen's people the snake in the garden never fails to appear. — New York Times

Part Hemingway and part Gabriel Márquez — Hansen's something of an all-American magic realist, in other words a fabulist in the native grain. — Kirkus Reviews

Just as Raymond Carver was identified with a Pacific Northwest populated by blue-collar workers, and just as Richard Ford has crafted a Montana full of drifters, so Ron Hansen has carved out his own geographical niche. His Nebraska is a distinctive mix of 19th-century settlers and 1980's breadwinners, of sudden storms and life-long yearnings, of lost souls stranded in the middle of nowhere. It should put him on the short-story map. — USA Today

Nebraska depicts a rowdy, changing American West with wit and brawny lyricism, in voices ranging from hip to tender, the stories gathered here are as diverse and expansive as the country they celebrate....References to America's heartland abound throughout the book and serve as a central metaphor for what's close to American hearts, what connects us: dreams, myths and possibilities as vast as the Great Plains. Wise and smart alecky, creaking with legend and crackling with modernisms, thse ten tales are about American obsession past and present. — Washington Post Book World

Ron Hansen's stories are powered by inexorable currents of fate ... [His] talent for sensuous detail travels very well — to the late 1800's, to the 1940's, to the present day ... With him ... we hear the sound of time passing, the rumble of destiny. — New York Times Book Review

The Shadowmaker
Copyright © 1999
by Ron Hansen
Pictures by Margot Tomes

When a mysterious man who calls himself the Shadowmaker comes to town, he has an enticing product of people town, cannot afford one. In the end, however, Drizzle shows that she too knows a few tricks. Neat, elegant, and funny. — from the jacket

Engaging characters and clever writing. — ALA Booklist

Has the sassy feel of a modern fairy tale. — School Library Journal

A Stay Against Confusion:
Essays on Fiction and Faith
Copyright © 2001
by Ron Hansen

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. — from the jacket

A book that shines as a consequence of an accomplished writer’s deeply felt (and understood) moral and spiritual energy. — Robert Coles

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." ... 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. — Publishers Weekly

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. — Booklist

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." — Library Journal

...clean prose ... striking ideas ... — Kirkus Reviews

Wise and searching. — Wall Street Journal

Erudite and meditative, A Stay Against Confusion…depicts a profound, complex spirituality…brims with intelligence, passion and conviction. — San Francisco Chronicle

Refreshing and enlightening … only rarely does any writer explain himself so clearly and so courageously. Los Angeles Times

This vital new collection of essays … is a generous benefaction … fascinating … courageous. — Rick Moody, Book Forum

A Wild Surge of Guilty Passion
Copyright © 2011
by Ron Hansen

Based on a real case whose lurid details scandalized Americans in 1927 and sold millions of newspapers, acclaimed novelist Ron Hansen’s latest work is a tour de force of erotic tension and looming violence. Trapped in a loveless marriage, Ruth Snyder is a voluptuous, reckless, and altogether irresistible woman who wishes not only to escape her husband but that he die—and the sooner the better. No less miserable in his own tedious marriage is Judd Gray, a dapper corset-and-brassiere salesman who travels the Northeast peddling his wares. He meets Ruth in a Manhattan diner, and soon they are conducting a white-hot affair involving hotel rooms, secret letters, clandestine travels, and above all, Ruth’s increasing insistence that Judd kill her husband. Could he do it? Would he? What follows is a thrilling exposition of a murder plan, a police investigation, the lovers’ attempt to escape prosecution, and a final reckoning for both of them that lays bare the horror and sorrow of what they have done. Dazzlingly well-written and artfully constructed, this impossible-to-put-down story marks the return of an American master known for his elegant and vivid novels that cut cleanly to the essence of the human heart, always and at once mysterious and filled with desire. — from the publisher

Once again, Ron Hansen has proved that he has no peer in the writing of fiction about biographical characters. No one writing today is better at re-creating the past than Hansen, and no one gives better insight into his characters. In this instance, Ron Hansen re-creates the Roaring Twenties with a sense of immediacy and authenticity that I haven't seen since the novels of F Scott Fitzgerald and John O'Hara. James M Cain once said that the greatest of human tragedies usually takes place when people get what they want. That's the story we find in A Wild Surge of Guilty Passion. Could this happen to us, we ask ourselves. The question is a haunting one. Ron Hansen takes us into the heart of America, and the journey never allows us to stop turning the page. — James Lee Burke

A Wild Surge of Guilty Passion is by turns blackly comic, irresistibly seductive, and implacably devastating. As a tour of the Seven Deadly Sins, it’s pretty much unsurpassed in recent literature. — Jim Shepard, author of You Think That's Bad

You Don't Know What Love Is:
Contemporary American Love Stories
Copyright © 2001
by Ron Hansen

Compiled, with a preface, by Ron Hansen. Twenty-four stories about love of all kinds. Includes Margaret Atwood, Charles Baxter, Raymond Carver, Andre Dubus, my Hempel, John Irving, David Leavitt, Bobbie Ann Mason, Joyce Carol Oates, John Updike, and Tobias Wolff.

You've Got to Read This:
Contemporary American Writers Introduce Stories
That Held Them in Awe
Copyright © 2001
by Ron Hansen

An exciting new anthology of short fiction chosen by thirty-five of this country's most distinguished and popular fiction writers, You've Got to Read This offers readers an unusually intimate glimpse into how accomplished writers experience literature. Here are stories that inspired today's leading novelists and short-story writers to embark on their own writing careers, stories that took their breath away and changed them, or the way they responded to literature, forever. Oscar Hijuelos confesses his debt to the great Argentine writer Jorge Luis Borges, whose brilliant story "The Aleph" inspired him to become a writer himself. Mary Gordon stands in awe of what James Joyce wrought in "The Dead," and wonders how writers who come after him can equal it. Robert Coover writes movingly of Angela Carter and her mysterious story "Reflections," while Kenneth A McClane says that "Sonny's Blues" by James Baldwin literally saved his life. Some of the stories presented here are classics, like Anton Chekhov's "Gooseberries," introduced by Eudora Welty, or Flannery O'Connor's "A Good Man Is Hard to Find," selected by Sue Miller. Some are less well known, like Lars Gustafsson's "Greatness Strikes Where It Pleases," introduced by Charles Baxter, or John Updike's "Packed Dirt, Churchgoing, a Dying Cat, a Traded Car," whose beauty stunned Lorrie Moore. All were critically important to some of our finest contemporary writers — among them Annie Dillard, John Irving, Amy Tan, Louise Erdrich, Russell Banks, Jane Smiley, Bobbie Ann Mason, Tobias Wolff — and their comments about the selections offer fascinating entrances into the stories. For lovers of fiction, You've Got to Read This is a treasure trove, a dazzling collection of stories passionately and imaginatively chosen. — from the publisher

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