Hansen (Hitler’s Niece, 1996, etc.) claims that the Church and its liturgy helped form his vocation as a writer. The Church, after all, taught him not only to tell stories, but that that the very act of storytelling (writing) is sacramental. He offers a eulogy to John Gardner, who inspired Hansen in his own forays into fiction, and he includes his previously published essay on St. Ignatius of Loyola and a moving essay on the biblical story of Cain (the latter interwoven with Hansen’s reflections on his twin brother Rob). In his essay on religion in Gerard Manley Hopkins’s poetry, he observes that “even [Hopkins’s] most quarrelsome biographers portray a life of fidelity, integrity, and service, with a Christ-like devotion to his calling.” Hansen also praises movies, saying he learned as much from Babette’s Feast as from any sonnet or villanelle, and suggesting that it is, in fact, a religious allegory, offering a “highly metaphorical representation of the liturgy” and presenting a luminous Christ-figure in the person of Babette. He also includes a number of prayers, among them St. Ignatius of Loyola’s famous Eucharistic hymn, the “Anima Christi.”
Simple, clean prose; simple, striking ideas. But never simplistic.