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Angels: A Novel Paperback – April 30, 2002


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 224 pages
  • Publisher: Harper Perennial; Reprint edition (April 30, 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 9780060988821
  • ISBN-13: 978-0060988821
  • ASIN: 0060988827
  • Product Dimensions: 5.3 x 0.5 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 4.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (29 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #64,972 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Review

"Johnson succeeds so well as to make one eager for more" -- John Sutherland London Review of Books "A beautifully tragic chronicle" New York Magazine "Denis Johnson is one of our most inventive, unpredictable novelists" New York Times Book Review "Johnson knows his people inside out, their lost, lonely, never-had-a-chance lives. He knows how they talk and think, and he makes us know them too" Publishers Weekly "One of the strongest examples of fiction noir since Robert Stone's first work appeared-with an absence of sentimentality and an overall shape that's perfectly judged, this is one of the most impressive first novels of recent seasons - full of a fiery recoiling kick, the dreadful power of inhuman ugliness and misfortune beyond redemption" Kirkus Reviews --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From the Back Cover

"Denis Johnson is one of our most inventive, unpredictable novelists."

-- The New York Times Book Review

This novel, which suggests a brilliant mixture of William Blake and James M. Cain, established Denis Johnson as a major talent in American fiction, a promise confirmed in his later books Fiskadoro and The Stars at Noon. Jamie Mays and Bill Houston meet on a Greyhound bus. She is fleeing an unfaithful husband and lugging two travel-stained children. He is on the rebound from stints in jail and the navy and looking for "high old times." Together, they make an aimless tour of bus stations and cheap hotels from Pittsburgh to Phoenix, their momentum fueled by booze, rage, and corrosive need, their journey a trajectory that leads inexorably to a moment of shattering violence.

"A small masterpiece... prose of amazing power and stylishness."

-- Philip Roth

"A debut to be celebrated."

-- Washington Post Book World --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.


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Customer Reviews

Every sentence is perfect.
Tyler Jones
I enjoyed this book immensely and had trouble putting it down--I would rank it among the best I've read over the last five years.
Quickhappy
I've read criticisms of "Angels" bemoaning the sketchy take on the central characters, but I disagree that this is a failing.
Robert Bezimienny

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

48 of 50 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on September 7, 1999
Format: Paperback
Frankly, I am hard pressed to think of a better debut novel than "Angels." This ranks in quality of form and substance with, for instance, Graham Greene's "The Heart of the Matter" or "The End of the Affair," the kind of work one would expect in the middle portion of a writer's body of literature. Fans of Johnson's marvelous collection of short stories, "Jesus' Son," will find the pace and language of "Angels" more subdued (although depictions of rape and violence are utterly compelling) and the outrageously mordant humor, more or less, gone. Instead of shocking the reader with frequent brilliant well-timed and well-turned poetic metaphors, as he did with "Jesus' Son," here he allows the prose to develop more subtly--but with equally outstanding results. I find Johnson a somewhat curious author. Clearly, he is a literary genius--one of the great talents of the 20th century and quite possibly the best all-around living American writer. It is obvious in this novel as well as some others, including "Fiskadoro," "Resuscitation of a Hanged Man," and even "Stars at Noon." I get the feeling he could, if he wanted, easily achieve the popular status of, say, a Greene or Hemingway or Carver, but he obviously prefers to remain just slightly left of mainstream (although "Jesus' Son" and "Angels" are quite accessible). Whatever, this, like all of Johnson's works, is a richly rewarding experience. I hope he has many, many more to come.
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25 of 26 people found the following review helpful By Robert Bezimienny on May 8, 2006
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
In "Angels" I think Denis Johnson is focusing on the mystery of being a particular self, and questioning how much of the stuff that goes together to make a self is actually that person's own doing. His vehicle for this exploration is the underbelly of the USA, and here he taps into a tradition in American writing stretching through Kerouac, and Fante, Bukowski, Miller and Dreiser, and no doubt many others unfamiliar to me; in a way, a more distant echo is heard in Beckett and his tramps. The wonder of individual consciousness, the experience of subjectivity, is illuminated by making all the gaudy trappings of the world dark.

I've read criticisms of "Angels" bemoaning the sketchy take on the central characters, but I disagree that this is a failing. Johnson gives us enough for us to sympathize and, at times, empathize with his motley cast, and certainly enough to share in their everyday epiphanies, when they see the world fresh and new and each moment appears precious and, by the miracle of Johnson's poetic prose, we see out of their eyes.

Likewise criticism falls upon Bill Houston's fate as being somehow unemotional, but this very fact suggests that we are not simply being asked to consider the ethics of capital punishment, but also to dwell on our own, that is to say everyone's, inevitable fate - the blind certainty of our mortality.

The entire work questions the role of personal will versus that of circumstance in deciding the choices we make. I do not think that a pat answer is provided, instead the question is raised and investigated through the thoughts and deeds of Johnson's miscreants.

All of this is dressed in Johnson's universally praised and delicately wrought language. For me, this novel is a celebration of the power of words to first and foremost communicate - if we gain a window into the souls of "Angels"' lost protagonists, then how much easier to see inside our own, and inside those who surround us.
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24 of 25 people found the following review helpful By Quickhappy on February 5, 2001
Format: Paperback
Beaten down and living for the moment, Denis Johnson's characters scrape out a wretched life of drugs and alcohol, pipe-dreams, and daydreams.
_Angels_ is a world of bus depots and scurrilous strangers, of people who can scarcely see past the haze of their cigarettes. It is a lonely world of randomness and drift. Some might say Johnson's characters aren't "3D", but that's because they're so richly flat. And when Johnson takes us into Jamie's descent into madness, it is a mind-bending trip.
Yet somehow, Johnson's writing left me exhilerated and happy. I enjoyed this book immensely and had trouble putting it down--I would rank it among the best I've read over the last five years.
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13 of 14 people found the following review helpful By Henry Platte on March 23, 2004
Format: Paperback
Johnson is one of our greatest and most underappreciated living authors (yes, underappreciated, even though he has been lavishly praised by critics). He isn't just capable of writing a good book or two, he's a classic talent, and it's obvious from his very first novel. Angels reads like an epic poem - every sentence is carefully weighed and effective, and a sense of character emerges even out of shattered impressions. The flawed characters are still somehow endearing, and the sense of dark and cryptic religion, from occultism to by-the-book Christianity, underpinned by Bob Dylan's 'Like a Rolling Stone,' is powerful. This book should be read and enjoyed; eventually, also, reprinted and remembered.
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12 of 14 people found the following review helpful By William A. Marsh on December 31, 2002
Format: Paperback
This is the first Denis johnson book I have read and probably will not be the last. The man can paint pictures with words, phrases and sentences. We experience the torrid nights in Arizona, the lonely bus rides across the country and feel the evil of men having they way with cast-away women. The sadness is most vividly revealed through the few children that dot the story.
I enjoy stories of people on the edge, desperate and without a clue of how to act beyond the first reaction and simplest action.
I did find parts of the story confusing as characters seemed to come and go without notice or explanation.
The ending is an excellent polemic on the death penalty.
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