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Review: "Jesus’ Son: Stories" by Denis Johnson


In this series of inter-related, brutal and occasionally shocking short stories the main character is both evil and sympathetic. Or perhaps simply cursed and stupid. Or is it the addictions? The book offers a wide-open window into a life diminished and haphazard, undermined by drug abuse, alcoholism and petty crime. Through misadventures, sad sexual liaisons and psychological destitution, the anti-hero prevails, marginally. A step away from further incarceration, death by violence or death by overdose, the main character manages to elicit a measure of compassion, almost bordering on understanding, from the reader.

Johnson’s writing, once again direct, clear and unadorned, still manages to create sentences of intense beauty and meaning:

“…you feel like you’re dragging a cart of sins behind you.”

“Through the neighborhoods and past the platforms, I felt the cancelled life dreaming after me.”

“His eyeballs look like he bought them in a joke shop.”

“I’d been out this road more than once, a little farther every time, and I’d never found anything that made me happy.”

“the cards were scattered on the table, face up, face down, and they seemed to foretell that whatever we did to one another would be washed away by liquor or explained away by sad songs.”

Need I say more. Take a plunge, read the book. Prepare yourself. I am on a deep journey with Johnson, reading virtually everything.

Note: Book #3 in my Denis Johnson study