This slender 150 page coming-of-age novella was first published in 1967 and reprinted several times. Now, in celebration of its 50th anniversary, it is available as an ebook. TIME MAGAZINE described it as a "gentle first novel told with a fine ear for adolescent patois," and National Book Award winning poet William Stafford called it one of the most neglected works of the 20th century. Southern novelist Eudora Welty said about the book: “I like it, and warmly admire his sturdy subject and delicately restrained treatment. It seemed to me blessed with honesty, clarity, directness, proportion and a lovely humor. . . .”
Clyde Stout is a high school graduate in a small Ohio town; he loves tinkering with cars and dreaming about his girlfriend. He has interests and aspirations, but no definite goals. He is coasting ... until he discovers he has a new talent: the ability to hang from a metal bar longer than anybody!
Others start calling him "Hanger," and an out-of-town stranger, trying to help the boy to profit from this talent, organizes various "hanging competitions." At first, Hanger goes along, but after a while he becomes suspicious of the stranger’s motives; is he for real? Hanger is no longer a boy and not yet an adult – but he finds himself in a world where older adults are constantly offering advice and supervision and alleged wisdom. Until then, Hanger had always been an amiable and trusting sort; now Hanger needs to look at things through adult eyes — can he adapt to a world which seems less safe or reliable but possibly more profound?
The book is a fun and easy read… Not too much seems to happen in the novel, and the protagonist (we’re sorry to report) is not a werewolf or vampire or time traveler or wizard or superhero; to all appearances, he’s just an ordinary guy, but if you penetrate beneath appearances, you’ll find that he’s defiantly and unforgettably unique. This book will help you remember how it felt to be a teenager…before you needed to start worrying about more serious matters. Like life, or what passes for life in the world of adults.
This 50th anniversary edition includes an introductory essay, "Hanger at 50 Years: A Rumination" by Robert Nagle.
"Here is a contemporary character so rich in innocence, he seems a hybrid descendant of Candide and Don Quixote ... Hanger Stout stays in your memory, hanging on, as only a Champion can, for a long, long time." (Laurie Levy, CHICAGO TRIBUNE)
"The author has created a true American original in the line of Huckleberry Finn, Penrod Schofield, Plupy Shute and Dink Stover as the hero of one of the best novels of this or any other recent year." (Ernest Cady, COLUMBUS DISPATCH)."
"In an automobile graveyard of human possibilities, using all the strengths of realism and none of its cliches, Jack Matthews presents a deeply original novel. I think it is tremendous." (J. Michael Yates, MUNDUS ARTIUM) .
"... charming, delightful and thoroughly readable novel." (Gregor Roy, CATHOLIC WORLD).
"...a superb novel which must be read before it is read about." (Day Thorpe, WASHINGTON STAR ).
"Introducing from the tree limb on the left, the hangingest hanging man in the country, Clyde Stout. Sound like a wiggy field event? It started when Mr. Comisky drove into the station to have his car fixed. But it's Clyde's story, told in diary form and he's one of the most charming, congenial characters met in years. Clyde isn't too intelligent but he's smart. He's also in-cred-ibly naive, innocence personified. A delightful notion of a book. Hang in there boy." KIRKUS REVIEW