Jesus' Son: Stories (Picador Modern Classics)

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9781250074805: Jesus' Son: Stories (Picador Modern Classics)
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"These pocket-sized titles are stunning....They make the perfect stocking stuffers!" - Metro

"Bought together or separately, these fiction titles are ideal stocking stuffers for the literature lover." - USA Today

American master Denis Johnson's nationally bestselling collection of blistering and indelible tales about America's outcasts and wanderers

Denis Johnson's now classic story collection chronicles a wild netherworld of addicts and lost souls, a violent and disordered landscape that encompasses every extreme of American culture. These are stories of transcendence and spiraling grief, of hallucinations and glories, of getting lost and found and lost again. The insights and careening energy in Jesus' Son have earned the book a place of its own among the classics of twentieth-century American literature.

For more than twenty years, Picador has been producing beautifully packaged literary fiction and nonfiction books from Manhattan's Flatiron Building. Our Twentieth Anniversary Modern Classics line pairs iconic books - The Virgin Suicides by Jeffrey Eugenides, Steppenwolf by Herman Hesse, Jesus' Son by Denis Johnson, and Housekeeping by Marilynne Robinson - with a design that's both small enough to fit in your pocket and unique enough to stand out on your bookshelf.

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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 (1949-2017) is the author of eight novels, one novella, one book of short stories, three collections of poetry, two collections of plays, and one book of reportage. His novel Tree of Smoke won the 2007 National Book Award.

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