Ron Hansen – Scorching in Search of the Actual Evaluate
A versatile approach to writing
A review of
Hot in search of the real:
Paperback: Slant Books, 2020
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Reviewed by Crystal Hurd
Ron Hansen's latest publication is a literary reflection. Hotly in Pursuit of the Real bears the title "Notes to a memory" because the text does not only serve as an autobiography, but a collection of reflections on his development as a writer and various considerations about the writing process. Hansen has had a long career as a fiction writer and his own versatile approach to writing is evident here in the reader's great fascination. I say eclectic because Hansen approached writing from an untraditional way as a Catholic priest who later graduated in creative writing from the famous University of Iowa, the same institution that promoted the careers of other spiritual writers like Flannery O'Connor started. Like O’Connor, Hansen believes that writing and spirituality are not mutually exclusive, but flow like rivers into a larger and vast sea of inspiration and experience. In fact, the title of this collection comes from O'Connor's proclamation that culture requires Christian writers to grapple with and question the rosy, sentimental portrayal of Christian literature, and demands that Christians deal with "nature" in all its myriad forms .
However, Hansen's version of spirituality differs from other conventional "Christian" artists. Hansen's bibliography is wide and extensive, ranging from stories about the Dalton gang, Hitler's niece and Jesse James to a shipwreck that influenced the poet Gerard Manley Hopkins and a nun who was interviewed about experiencing stigmata. This impressive collection shows Hansen's natural talent and illustrates his unique blend of spirituality and literature. This reviewer came across Hansen after a friend mentioned Exiles. Soon afterwards I read Mariette in Ecstacy with great passion. Hotly in Pursuit of the Real is a special treat for Hansen fans; The book deals intensively with Hansen's intense love for literature at a young age, his training in Iowa with the writer John Irving, his reflection on other great literary works and just as fascinating with his personal perspective on the purposes of literature.
For Hansen, literature has a moral prerogative. In the title essay, Hansen writes: “During the night I noticed that conversations with many of my friends had deep experiences with God's hand, voice and comfort. God's gentle invitation. But how often is it written about these experiences? "(9). This question seems to be the impetus for many of Hansen's works. It is important to note that Hansen's representations of Christian life are not overtly Protestant, but illustrate the struggle of transformed life against the gloomy background of secular culture. Like his predecessor O’Connor, Hansen does not shy away from the difficult topics, but confronts them with flying colors. This particular book per se does not shed light on how Hansen deliberately incorporated his faith in his literature, but how his spiritual experiences influenced his writings.
Hotly in Pursuit of the Real is divided into five sections: 1) a small collection of spiritual essays, 2) two interviews with Hansen about writing fiction, 3) essays examining Hansen's process of writing some of his greatest fictional works, 4) Hansen's literary essays on various works and 5) a variety of reflective essays, including two on golf. Although this last section is not entirely critical, it gives the reader a better understanding of Hansen as an individual, apart from his literary and spiritual activities. Personally, I found the first three sections of particular interest because the inspiration of a writer to compose various works fascinated me immensely (I particularly liked his essay "Hopkins and the Wreck of the Exiles in Germany"). Given that Hansen has a diverse range of literary aspirations, this insight is invaluable.
Most casual readers will be drawn to sections one and three, mentioning the context and experience that have brought forth works such as Coward Robert Ford's Jesse James' murder, Exiles, A Wild Surge of Guilty Passion and The Kid. For those who are interested in Hansen's motif "The Wild West", his short essay "Why the West?" an educational read. Those with "literary tendencies" will examine the fourth section. Hansen is a smart observer of human psychology and an extremely critical expert on good prose. In his highly entertaining essay "Shakespeare and Me", Hansen refers to the critic Harold Bloom, and yet Hansen himself applies a well-trained analysis to some of his favorite works. His various insights into the author Thomas Merton were the most revealing. Granted, I had only a glimpse of the authors Hansen mentioned in Section 4: Edwin O & # 39; Connor, Frank Monaco, and Alan Boyle. However, the extrapolation of the text by Hansen encouraged my fleeting knowledge to develop into a peripheral interest.
Not every novelist can be as successful as a non-fiction writer, but Hansen does it with ease. Hansen is a rare talent in a wading pool of mediocrity, and his reviewer's honest opinion should receive more awards. Flannery O’Connor firmly believed that Christian writers should be the loudest and clearest voices on the world stage. Although this may be the case with a small number of writers (I remember Marilynne Robinson), Ron Hansen is one of those who fulfill O'Connor's valued vision. Hotly in Pursuit of the Real is an enjoyable read from page one, similar to Hansen's earlier non-fiction publication A Stay Against Confusion. Hanson is a writer who is valued and revered for his skills, style, and intellect, but also for his courage to write stories that appeal to Christians, who are quite skeptical of "comfort stories" that prove to be authentically spiritual present. Humanity is chaotic and neglected, and Hansen rightly portrays it as such. His works are a breath of fresh air, and this text only complements his amazing bibliography. This is what Christian literature looks like in postmodern times, much to my relief: stories that are based on creative expression and are rooted in a deep and unrelenting morality. Hotly in Pursuit of the Real is a book that I recommend with great enthusiasm.