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9781427205711

Jesus' Son: Stories

Johnson, Denis

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Recently adapted for the screen, this now-classic collection of ten stories from the author of Resuscitation of a Hanged Man and Angels is narrated by a young man, a recovering alcoholic and heroin addict whose dependencies have led him to petty crime, cruelty, betrayal, and various kinds of loss.

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Review:

The unnamed narrator in Jesus' Son lives through a car wreck and a heroin overdose. Is he blessed? He cheats, lies, steals--but possesses a child's (or a mystic's) uncanny way of expressing the bare essence of things around him. In its own strange and luminous way, this linked collection of short fiction does the same. The stories follow characters who are seemingly marginalized beyond hope, drifting through a narcotic haze of ennui, failed relationships, and petty crime. In "Dundun" the narrator decides to take a shooting victim to the hospital, though not for the usual reasons: "I wanted to be the one who saw it through and got McInnes to the doctor without a wreck. People would talk about it, and I hoped I would be liked." Later he takes his own pathetic stab at violence in "The Other Man," attempting to avenge a drug rip-off but succeeding only at terrorizing an innocent family. Each meandering story--some utterly lacking in the usual elements of plot, including a beginning and an end--nonetheless demands compulsive reading, with Denis Johnson's first calling as a poet apparent in the off-kilter beauty of his prose. Open to any page and gems spill forth: "I knew every raindrop by its name. I sensed everything before it happened. I knew a certain Oldsmobile would stop for me even before it slowed, and by the sweet voices of the family inside that we'd have an accident in the storm."

The most successful stories in the collection offer moments of startling clarity. In "Car Crash While Hitchhiking," for instance, the narrator feels most alive while in the presence of another's loss: "Down the hall came the wife. She was glorious, burning. She didn't know yet that her husband was dead.... What a pair of lungs! She shrieked as I imagined an eagle would shriek. It felt wonderful to be alive to hear it! I've gone looking for that feeling everywhere." In "Work," while "salvaging" copper wire from a flooded house to fund their habits, the narrator and an acquaintance stop to watch the nearly unfathomable sight of a beautiful, naked woman paragliding up the river. Later the narrator learns that the house once belonged to his down-and-out accomplice and that the woman is his estranged wife. "As nearly as I could tell, I'd wandered into some sort of dream that Wayne was having about his wife, and his house," he reasons. Such is the experience for the reader. More Genet than Bukowski, Denis Johnson lures us into a misfit soul's dream from which he can't awake. --Langdon Cook

About the Author:

DENIS JOHNSON is the author of seven works of fiction, three collections of poetry, and one book of reportage. He is the recipient of a Lannan Fellowship and a Whiting Writers' Award, among many other honors for his work.   Will Patton has won two OBIE awards for best actor for the off-Broadway plays, Sam Shepard's Fool for Love and the Public Theatre production of What Did He See? He's appeared in a host of films including A Mighty Heart with Angelina Jolie, Knucklehead, Brooklyn's Finest, and Dog Days of Summer. His many television credits include The Agency, CSI: Crime Scene Investigation, 24, and Numb3rs.
 
An Earphones Award-winner and Audies finalist, Will has narrated audiobooks by such authors as Charles Frazier, Larry McMurtry, Don DeLillo, and Ernest Hemingway. He was named Best Voice in Mystery & Suspense by AudioFile magazine in both 2008 and 2009. Will read Jesus' Son by Denis Johnson for Macmillan Audio.

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Johnson, Denis Author
Published by Macmillan Audio (2009)
ISBN 10: 142720571X ISBN 13: 9781427205711
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