Tartarus Press


What I Was Afraid Of has now sold out as a limited edition hardback book.


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What I Was Afraid Of


Eric Hanson


What I Was Afraid Of is a book of fears, suspicions, uncertainties, bewilderment, confusion, guilt and unease. The stories are an exploration of things that never happened, and couldn’t happen because we are safe in­doors, under the covers, with the doors locked.


We fear the things we don’t understand, so we crawl inside them and look out through a stranger’s eyes. We imagine ourselves involved in sinister and peculiar things. We put ourselves in a criminal’s shoes to see how they feel and where they take us. Where do these thoughts come from? Are we complicit?


The fact is, people take fear as a stimulant. It’s the pinch that tells us we’re awake. Unrea­soning fears are the most enter­taining. The horrible visions we recoil from are often ourselves seen in a dark mirror or someone we know seen in bad light.




Eric Hanson’s short fiction has been published in McSweeney’s, the New York Tyrant, The Lifted Brow and Torpedo. His articles and satires have been published by The Paris Review, The Atlantic, The Mockingbird, Ampersand, The Week, Süddeutsche Zeitung Magazine, National Geographic, Hemispheres, Smithsonian, and others. He’s also the author of A Book Of Ages (Random House, 2008). He’s better known as an illustrator of book covers for Knopf, HarperCollins, NYRB, Farrar Straus, and others, and for magazines and newspapers including the New York Times, the New Yorker, Harper’s, The Atlantic, Spy, WigWag, Vanity Fair, The Nation, The Washington Post, The LATimes, The New Republic, Die Zeit, The Spectator, and Rolling Stone.



"The upshot of Hanson’s perceptions and writing is to gnaw away at existence itself, to undermine reality, to loosen the reader’s hold on the world that supposedly surrounds us all.  Eric Hanson takes you to the nicest, safest place in the world, a place more terrifying than you thought you could imagine." Narrative Species (The website also includes a fascinating interview with Eric Hanson.)


"Hanson’s new short-story collection, What I Was Afraid Of, is a book of fears, suspicions, uncertainties, bewilderment, confusion, guilt, and unease. It’s an exploration of things that never happened, and couldn’t happen because we are safe inside, under the covers, with the doors locked. A standout is “An Introduction to Fiction,” which captures the unique indignities of being an unknown never-was in a sea of literary luminaries." Airmail


"These are stories out of the Twilight Zone, dark dreams of weird and sinister happenings. Things don't always add up; actions might not make sense. . . . A dark, disturbing yet undeniably fascinating read." Laurie Hertzel, Star Tribune


"The concept behind Eric Hanson’s collection What I Was Afraid Of is intriguing: stories rooted in fear and the unknown tied together at the end by an extract of Hanson’s memoir.... Hanson doesn’t shy away from stories that might make a reader uncomfortable ...  It is in these stories where Hanson shines." Aurealis, 152


"A surprise lurks beyond every sentence of What I Was Afraid Of—usually an unsettling one. This assured collection of stories by Eric Hanson is both eerie and eerily good." Ben Yagoda, author, About Town: The New Yorker and the World It Made.



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