cover image Remembering Denny

Remembering Denny

Calvin Trillin. Farrar, Straus & Giroux Inc, $19 (209pp) ISBN 978-0-374-22607-7

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.)