Jon Hassler Dies

Word has reached us that Jon Hassler has died at his home in Collegeville, Minn., at the age of 74. One of the great novelists of our time, his books, including ’North of Hope,’ ’Staggerford,’ ’Dear James,’ and ’Grand Opening,’ examined with infinite compassion the lives of the residents of small-town Minnesota, and typically touched on overtly Catholic themes: clergy and religious made frequent appearances in his stories, and parish life was quite often at the center of his characters’ lives. His lapidary writing and wondrous ability to create fully-formed characters--alive physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually--marked all his fiction. If you’ve never read any of his books, I might suggest ’Grand Opening’ as a good place to start. His death has special poignancy for our editors here, who had just decided to award Mr. Hassler with our Campion Award, given to a Christian person of letters, usually at the end of a distinguished career. (Recent recipients have included John Updike, Annie Dillard, Chinua Achebe, and Andrew Greeley.) Our literary editor, Patricia Kossmann, had recently spoken to Mr. Hassler, who graciously accepted the award. Plans were afoot to travel to Collegeville to present the award to the novelist, who had been in poor health. More on Mr. Hassler’s life from his local newspaper: "St. Cloud Times obituary" May he rest in peace. James Martin, SJ

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