I kind of sort of liked this woozy teensy bouquet of junkie memories but it was just too oh what s the word even though the very sky above me was heavy with the five stars sluiced over this book by all previous readers in all the seven realms of readerdom I got a mean and unworthy thought that you could take sentences from almost anywhere in any of these stories and put them next to other randomly selected sentences and they would make as much sense, so I took something from page 20, 40, 80, 100 and 120 and proved it as follows In the room behind her the man we d brought stood like a bad sculpture, posing unnaturally, with his shoulders wilting, as if he couldn t lug his gigantic hands any further He had a bad case of hepatitis that often gave him a lot of pain Do you want the police He thought about it and finally said Not unless I die I turned away because my throat was closing up And then I left The motor traffic was relentless, the sidewalks were crowded, the people preoccupied and mean because Happy Hour was also Rush Hour My bus went by, bus 24 it didn t even slow downIt goes on like this and then it stops Often a random person dies or maybe somebody doesn t die There are large vague profound statements every so often Reading this one felt like I was a first responder continually shouting in the author s face What is your name What have you taken Do you live here Is there anyone I can call I m heartbroken to hear of Denis Johnson s recent passing The man was a personal hero and great literary influence of mine I m floating this review of his quintessential masterpiece as a tip of the hat to the man who brought us some of the finest prose Without a doubt, this is one of my favorite works of all time Denis Johnson is a major influence of mine, and Jesus Son had a profound effect on me This was the book that showed me how far you could stretch your prose and still have it sound dynamite A drug addled mix of loosely interconnected stories, reading it is like navigating a string of dreams, both blissful and bad The spectrum of themes is considerably wide, and the narrative draws you into worlds where you can feel as uncomfortable and out of place as the characters themselves This is a book that actually makes you feel high in some spots The shifting line between chemical fueled fantasy and uneasy reality isn t just blurred, it s burned down to almost nothing Jesus Son features everyday kind of people who have slipped down notch or two into the gutter and lost their grip on normality Much of the time they have nothing to do, nothing to be, and little to live for It s bleak and beautiful at the same time, a trip through the entangled emotions of folks living simple lives complicated by poor choices Everything from love and loss to happiness and sheer horror is covered in this book One moment the writing is slick as oil, the next it is jagged as broken glass It s downright chaotic in places where the mental states of the storytellers are in question You know the main characters in this book are all unreliable narrators, but you still believe every word they say, because the stories Johnson tells are just that convincing He s a master writer, balancing poetic passages with crisp, visual prose This book is nothing short of a masterpiece.If you haven t read it yet, read is ASAP This book was one of my selections for my 5 Books That Made Me A Better Writer piece See which others I picked a side note if you have a chance to get the audiobook version, definitely do so Actor Will Patton narrates the stories, and does an incredible job of bringing Johnson s prose to perfection. Jesus Son, The First Collection Of Stories By Denis Johnson, Presents A Unique, Hallucinatory Vision Of Contemporary American Life Unmatched In Power And Immediacy And Marks A New Level Of Achievement For This Acclaimed Writer In Their Intensity Of Perception, Their Neon Lit Evocation Of A Strange World Brought Uncomfortably Close To Our Own, The Stories In Jesus Son Offer A Disturbing Yet Eerily Beautiful Portrayal Of American Loneliness And HopeContains Car Crash While HitchhikingTwo MenOut On BailDundunWorkEmergencyDirty WeddingThe Other ManHappy HourSteady Hands At Seattle GeneralBeverly Home Posted at Shelf Inflicted I wasn t sure if I would like this collection of loosely connected stories about a young guy who is addicted to drugs, sometimes homeless, sometimes employed, and occasionally steals He s not an especially likable character, but I enjoyed being a part of his thoughts, his views, and his haphazard journey through life Maybe it s because I have empathy for addicts and others who live on the edge.This powerful and gripping collection of stories was troubling, intense, and humane I was overwhelmed by its beautiful language and poignant passages.One of my favorite stories in this collection is Dirty Wedding, a sad and unsettling little story about abortion, loneliness, heroin addiction, and deathThe wheels screamed, and all I saw suddenly was everybody s big ugly shoes The sound stopped We passed solitary, wrenching scenes Through the neighborhoods and past the platforms, I felt the cancelled life dreaming after me Yes, a ghost A vestige Something remainingBeverly Home was sad, a little humorous, and very hopeful The young narrator finds a part time job in a nursing home, spies on a Mennonite couple in their bedroom, and begins a life of sobrietyAll these weirdos, and me getting a little better every day right in the midst of them I had never known, never even imagined for a heartbeat, that there might be a place for people like us Jesus Son Stories, Denis JohnsonJesus Son is a collection of short stories by American author Denis Johnson Contents Car Crash While Hitchhiking Two Men Out on Bail Dundun Work Emergency Dirty Wedding The Other Man Happy Hour Steady Hands at Seattle General Beverly Home 2015 1392 115 9786006846873 1393 115 97860022926741949. I stayed in the library, crushed breathless by the smoldering power of all those words many of them unfathomable.Sometimes I judge and consequently love a book based upon the following points A single, beautiful line I longed to read or hear in the words of some person other than me A completely related character A completely unrelated character The way it makes me laugh The way it makes me cry The way it makes me feel extremely good about the life I m leading The way it makes me feel rich metaphor intended The way it makes me feel poor ditto When a life is described without much fuss and the death is described without much glory When love is described without much purity and hate is described with a remarkable honesty When a few pages are enough to savor the taste of several slices of fucked up lives When few pages are actually not enough When a writer writes as if it s the easiest and the most difficult thing to do at the same time When it s so easy to love a book Jesus Son met most of the aforementioned criteria and deserved a much better review but I hope you all got my point that I really enjoyed this book A few hours reading, 11 really short stories basking in the glow of their respective singularities, some connections were made, some were left in isolation but all in all, a book worthy of my time and literary loveNopretending for him He was completely and openly a mess Meanwhile the rest of us go on trying to fool each other. Junk sick, Broke and Completely Alone, in a Land of Bad Intentions I ve gone through three copies of Jesus Son , reading it like a prayer book, though it s nothing of the kind There s a sadness living in every sentence, and it doesn t really have any suggestions for better living, beyond a painfully obvious cautionary tale Heroin bad. The cautionary tale, however, is one interpreted by the reader It s the best kind of dangerous, like a manual for poetic self immolation, on burning yourself down to the foundation stones and finding one beautiful thing in the ashes Even if it s something cheap and common, it assumes a spiritual density simply by escaping the flames, and a malleability that allows it to be shaped and worked into something vaguely redemptive The power of Denis Johnson s prose is inestimable, with sentences imagery that will orbit the readers consciousness for decades It s that kind of book one that moves into your head and makes itself comfortable His writing has the hard eyed toughness of Chandler, but with a kind of unabashed sensitivity that Chandler would never expose imagine Dashiell Hammett writing poetry, and imagine yourself liking it It s Bogart in drag, or a concert pianist with the broken hands of a boxer And therefore I looked down into the great pity of a person s life on this earth I don t mean that we all end up dead, that s not the great pity I mean that he couldn t tell me what he was dreaming, and I couldn t tell him what was real See That sort of thing In case you re not familiar with The Velvet Underground, the title comes from one of Lou Reed s lines in Heroin Denis Johnson s skills as a short story writer, poet, and novelist all coalesced with Jesus Son , to produce a sad, funny and frightening little masterpiece It s not really even a novellaof a collection of short stories that add up to something related to a novella Loosely inspired by Johnson s own experiences, the main character Fuckhead introduces himself with a story of hitch hiking in the rain He s feeling burnt out and edgy after taking mystery pills from a travelling salesman never a good idea, but his name is Fuckhead He doesn t do anything the right way When a family is nice enough to stop and let a drenched stranger into their car, he knows that it s going to end in tragedy, but he gets in anyway They said they d take me all the way Fuckhead s wanderings through the USA of the 1970 s are always told from the anamorphic perspectives of a compromised mind, pleasantly poisoned with all manner of chemical Junkies finding love in motel rooms Drug dealers half heartedly murdering each other in a Midwestern farmhouse A hospital clerk and orderly way too high for anything that comes through the Emergency Room doors Rehab Johnson presents skewed characters and situations that seem to operate according to the inscrutable mechanisms of dream and nightmare Like Dundun, for instance, about whom I can say little The narrator can say a few words, though, because narrators do that shit It s their thing Will you believe me when I tell you there was kindness in his heart His left hand didn t know what his right hand was doing It was only that certain important connections had been burned through If I opened up your head and ran a hot soldering iron around in your brain, I might turn you into someone like that Yeah, that s Dundun That s also perfect casting.Alison Maclean s adaptation of Jesus Son is one of the best novel to film translations I ve seen, along with No Country For Old Men and the big screen incarnations of the aforementioned Chandler and Hammett The performances are thoroughly fucking brilliant, but Michael Shannon s portrayal of Dundun was unforgettable.Other writers could work a decade, write a thousand pages, and not create a fraction of the intensity and emotional dissonance that Johnson scribbles into being And his characters they crawl off the paper and bury themselves in the soft grey folds of your brain, like memories that you ve bought and paid for by living them Jesus, that sounds absolutely fucking horrid but it s actually a good thing You can trust me I m not a doctor OR a politician Talk into my bullet hole Tell me I m fine Denis Johnson, Jesus Son Denis Johnson took the fringe sensibilities of The Beats, added his own raw poetic touches, nicked a line from Lou Reed for the title, and ended up with an intensely unsettling collection of stories that prefigured to a T the drug classic Trainspotting You may wonder at first if the unnamed narrator of these accounts could really be such an uncaring cad Well, as a bottom line, maybe so But the thoughts of murder, the thieving, and the ultra callous disregard for fellow man were in large part a function of the skag, the booze, and the stolen pharmaceuticals This does not excuse the insensitivity and messed up behavior so much as it explains the eeriness, fragmentation, and reflexive anger But amidst the distortions, bits of clarity stand out And in contrast to the alienation in dull shades of gray, a kindness of any tint will catch the eye Has it ever been proposed as an exercise in creative writing to imagine being if not actually being high as a kite What am I saying Of course it has And abstract, luminous words have come from such otherworldly mindsets, I m sure In fact, I would argue that this short book set in the psychedelic 70 s is a prime case in point It figures, with Johnson also being a poet, that the writing would be taut and expressive He captures the sentiments of the down and out so well, too For example, he describes how the tears of false fellowship dripped on the bar and how a gunshot victim should be happy he s getting Haldol pumped by the quart The drug scene is the backdrop, but the fallout is the real focusI d been staying at the Holiday Inn with my with my girlfriend, honestly the most beautiful woman I d ever known, for three days under a phony name, shooting heroin We made love in the bed, ate steaks in the restaurant, shot up in the john, puked, cried, accused one another, begged of one another, forgave, promised, and carried one another to heavenMy favorite parts were when little hints of what it means to be human snuck into the stories It didn t always put the narrator in a favorable light, but usually pointed to something redeemable within him He appreciated co worker and co addict Georgie for telling a friend of a friend who was seriously AWOL that he d help get him to Canada Georgie also wanted to save the baby rabbits of the mother he ran over with his car Another story described the narrator s best day ever, one where he and a friend made 28 each from honest labors stripping copper wire out of the friend s abandoned house and then celebrating with their favorite bartender pouring them double shots but charging them only for singles.The last story was set at Beverly Home, a place for senile, disabled, and disfigured adults where the narrator was given a part time job as the newsletter writer and a point of human contact for those rarely touched He was off drugs and sober at this point, and regaining his health His straight and narrow path was still a little skewed, though, when he discovered a Mennonite woman who happened to time her shower every day as he passed by her place after work As immoral as his actions were, though, there was a sense that he d turned the corner view spoiler I was going to say he turned the corner to find an odd looking guy with a long beard but no mustache about to aim a shotgun his way, but I d be taking too much literary license saying that It never happened hide spoiler I could understand how a drowning man might suddenly feel a deep thirst being quenched Magnificent, concise writing A calm sort of sad, and strangely relaxing Stories about people living in the corners of society.It s like I m sitting on the porch of a shack in the middle of nowhere, listening to the saddest old man I know tell me misremembered stories about how shitty he was when he was young.It all feels extremely real, like lives that were lived The stories are connected, and all share a protagonist It s an ethereal novella of sorts, each story like a chunk of truth torn from reality, with otherwise fiction filling in the cracks. A poetic, disorienting book of short fiction about semi criminals, heroin addicts and idlers squandering their lives on the fringes of urban northern Idaho The narrator is a study in contrasts irresponsible, irrationaland yet gifted with moments of almost mystical clarity.
Poet, playwright and author Denis Johnson was born in Munich, West Germany in 1949 and was raised in Tokyo, Manila and Washington He earned a masters degree from the University of Iowa and received many awards for his work, including a Lannan Fellowship in Fiction 1993 , a Whiting Writer s Award 1986 , the Aga Khan Prize for Fiction from the Paris Review for Train Dreams, and most recently, th
- Mass Market Paperback
- 160 pages
- Jesus' Son: Stories
- Denis Johnson
- 13 November 2018 Denis Johnson