A diverse, well-written collection from a writer in complete control of his material.
Recipient of an MFA from the Iowa Writer’s Workshop, author of eight novels (A Wild Surge of Guilty Passion, 2011, etc.) and one previous collection of short stories, Hansen is the Gerard Manley Hopkins, S.J., Professor in Arts and Humanities at Santa Clara University. This collection of 19 stories could be roughly divided into two types: Midwest realism and noirish entertainments. The title story is in the latter category. Writing in prison with the help of his cellmate, “the Professor,” the narrator recounts all he did to win a stripper’s heart. “Red-Letter Days” is in the former category. Diary entries of a retired, Nebraska-based, frustratingly forgetful, golf-obsessed former attorney note golf outings, the deaths of friends and his wife’s declining health. “True Romance” and “Wilderness” are pieces of magical realism. His well-tempered sentences weave the thread that leads us into and out of these labyrinths. Here Hansen’s gifts allow him to suppress explanation in the service of atmosphere. “Can I Just Sit Here for a While?” is a bit of Midwestern noir. The successful salesman, contemplating opening his own business, moves back to South Bend, Ind., and a night on the town with former Notre Dame classmates turns strange when one of the group confronts a carload of surly high school students. “Wilde in Omaha” is a witty title for a reporter’s record of a visit by Oscar Wilde. “Wickedness” chronicles several characters’ fates in a terrible blizzard from the same period as Wilde’s visit.
An excellent collection. Hansen can write.