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Remembering Denny


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About the Author

Calvin Trillin is the author of more than twenty books, including Family Man (FSG) and Messages from My Father (FSG). He writes a weekly column for Time and a weekly poem for The Nation. He lives in New York City.


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. (Apr.)

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.

"Fascinating . . . A fine meditation on one life's aborted promise, the crippling burden of anticipated success, and the mysteries of the human heart." --Kirkus Reviews

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