At age seven, ERIC HANSON read a biography of Kit Carson and has been interested in famous lives ever since. He grew up to be a writer and illustrator whose artwork has appeared in The New Yorker, Vanity Fair, Harper’s, the New York Times, Rolling Stone, Travel & Leisure,and Gourmet, among other publications. His fiction and satire have been published in McSweeney’s.
I think my mother and Queen Elizabeth of England are the same person, 1959.
I start kindergarten in suburban Chicago, 1960. I begin signing my art projects with Er-H in the lower right-hand corner to save space.
After visiting the battlefield at Gettysburg, I beg successfully for a Civil War uniform and replica musket, 1962.
I win an Indian dance contest at Wisconsin Dells, 1963. Later in the year I read a biography of Kit Carson, then read all the biographies I can find in the Delaware Trails Elementary School in suburban Indianapolis.
To quiet my disruptive attempts at humor, my fourth-grade teacher moves my desk to the back of the classroom and asks me to draw portraits of the presidents, which she pins up above the blackboard, 1964. Miss Maggard is my first art director.
My family moves to Minnesota, 1965. Our new house has two-dozen oak trees in the yard and woods across the street. There is a ski hill down the block. At summer camp I learn to water ski.
I begin writing a novel, 1968. It is compared to Dickens and Thackeray because I am copying Dickens and Thackeray.
To pay for ski equipment, I go into the Christmas card business. I draw the cards in pen and ink, have them printed, and sell them door to door, 1969. I will remain in the card business for another fifteen years.
I visit Aspen for the first time, 1970.
I do not attend Prom, 1973.
I discover mystery novelist Raymond Chandler, and become very hard-boiled, 1974.
Because I am fun at parties, I am made captain of the ski team at St. Olaf College, 1975. It is the same college Jay Gatsby attended in the Fitzgerald novel. Mr. Gatsby did not ski.
On my first visit to Europe, I earn travel money by pretending to be a Norwegian and selling drawings to tourists, 1976.
I graduate from college with reasonable distinction, but no Phi Beta Kappa key and no Rhodes Scholarship, 1977. I get a job in a ski shop. It is the only real job I will ever have.
I have a few drawings published in Rolling Stone and buy a blue Volkswagen Beetle for $200, 1979.
I am coaching ski racing and writing travel features for Skiing magazine, 1983. I am also writing a novel that I will never finish, but not the same novel I began in 1968.
When I am asked to illustrate a book of poems for Garrison Keillor, I suggest that Mr. Keillor write a novel about Lake Wobegon instead, which he does, 1984.
I am married, 1986.
While visiting New York, my wife and I have lunch at the Carnegie Deli, where we are seated at the same table as comedian and violinist Henny Youngman, 1989. We see actress Swoozie Kurtz in the shoe department at Bloomingdales.
We buy a house in a leafy Minneapolis neighborhood with good schools.
Our son Evan is born between Game 6 and Game 7 of the World Series, 1991. The hometown Twins are victorious. A week later it snows two-and-a-half feet.
I have an illustration published in the New Yorker magazine, 1993.
Our daughter Madeline is born, 1995.
I totally screw up my right hip while playing kickball with my kids and their cousins at a north-woods resort, 1997. I will never ride a bicycle again.
I spend two weeks in Italy with my family but do not meet the Pope, 1998.
In September 2005, I have a short story published in McSweeney’s 15. It is a comedy of manners about Josef Stalin.
I begin receiving frequent chatty letters from A.A.R.P., 2005.
In 2007 I find an agent for the book I’ve been writing for the past twenty years. My new agent, Marly Rusoff, sells the book to Harmony, an imprint of Random House. A Book of Ages is about things famous people did at various years of age between one and one hundred. Things like Dante seeing Beatrice, Julia Child learning to cook, Groucho Marx painting on a moustache, John Lennon meeting Paul McCartney, and Ernest Hemingway liberating the Ritz bar in Paris. I have never been to Paris, and with airfares what they are, I wonder if I ever will.