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Fiskadoro Paperback – May 30, 2000

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Editorial Reviews

Review

"A leap of the imagination. . . stunningly delivered." -- -- Los Angeles Times Book Review

"A leap of the imagination. . . stunningly delivered." -- Los Angeles Times Book Review

"A mythical story. . . coming-of-nuclear-age tale, the making of a new man from the ashes of the old world. . . a key to the conundrum at the center of the world." -- Philadelphia Inquirer

"Haunting. . .an eerie and powerful visionary novel." -- Boston Globe

"Wildly ambitious. . .the sort of book that a young Herman Melville might have written had he lived today and studied such disparate works as the Bible, 'The Wasteland,' Farenheit 451 and Dog Soldiers, screened Star Wars and Apocalypse Now several times, dropped a lot of acid and listened to hours of Jimi Hendrix and the Rolling Stones. . . . Its strange, hallucinatory vision of America and modern history is never less than compelling." -- New York Times

About the Author

Denis Johnson is the author of The Name of the World, Already Dead, Jesus' Son, Resuscitation of a Hanged Man, Fiskadoro, The Stars at Noon, and Angels. His poetry has been collected in the volume The Throne of the Third Heaven of the Nations Millennium General Assembly. He is the recipient of a Lannan Fellowship and a Whiting Writer's Award, among many other honors for his work. He lives in northern Idaho.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 240 pages
  • Publisher: Harper Perennial; Reprint edition (May 30, 2000)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0060976098
  • ISBN-13: 978-0060976095
  • Product Dimensions: 0.5 x 5.2 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 6.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (17 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #380,259 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

34 of 35 people found the following review helpful By Arch Llewellyn on March 2, 2001
Format: Paperback
Have you ever wished you could believe in ghosts? Or Jesus or Bob Marley or Bruce Lee? "Fiskadoro" creates a bizarre, poetic world where the civilization that stands between us and earlier forms of belief has been wiped out in a nuclear attack.
The new denizens of Twicetown (once Key West) live among the fragments of a half-remembered time, where scraps of different languages, musics, religions and machines exist without the memory of their earlier meaning or purpose. With no history to understand, the characters return to a more primal (primitive?) instinct for magic, ritual and resurrection.
Johnson writes with the weird precision of dreams, where details like the heat or the color of a tree are crystal-clear, but the larger meanings stay blurred. He's especially good at describing extreme states--epileptic fits, the Saigon airlift, a druggy tribal initiation rite.
But the characters themselves never felt very real to me. Maybe that's part of the point: without memory, identity softens and leaves a new margin for the spirit-world, for the deaths and strange rebirths that fill the story. But I found it hard to stay interested in what happened to anyone, and the novel ends (for me at least) with more muddle than mystery.
Still, Johnson's makes his fractured world every bit as believable as ours. His sharp, lyrical prose will haunt you long after you've forgotten the plot.
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32 of 39 people found the following review helpful By Clear-eyed on February 1, 2002
Format: Paperback
A friend gave me copies of Denis Johnson's "Fiskadoro" and "Already Dead," and told me to read "Fiskadoro" second since it was maybe too bizarre an introduction to the author's work. As a lover of the bizarre, I ignored his advice and read "Fiskadoro" first.
As noted by other reviewers, probably Johnson's greatest strength is his poetic and creative use of language. Like Bruno Schulz (as so brilliantly translated by Celina Wieniewski), he gives you sentences and paragraphs that are truly breathtaking, like unexpectedly stumbling across a scene of incredible beauty. Also like Schulz, Johnson is also quite adept at conveying dreamlike states of mind, and can inspire the conviction that delirium is more true than "objective" reality.
"Fiskadoro" can be called a science fiction book only in the most hair-splitting sense. It's not a druggy fantasy like the Carlos Castaneda books. Nor is it a cautionary tale warning us of the effects of nuclear devastation--although it certainly does convey some of those horrors very effectively. This is more of a psychological adventure, a meditation on human consciousness and being, with plenty of entertaining experiences along the way.
Johnson's humor is very sophisticated. It's a sign of his great skill that much of the humor is totally contextual, but nonetheless very amusing. His humor is not the knee-slapping variety, but more the awe-inspiring, thought-provoking variety. But very funny nonetheless.
Some of the imagery is so cinematic, so well described--with fairly ordinary language surrounding precisely the correct word to unlock the door to mysterious imaginings--that I would find myself thinking, "Wow...Can someone really do that with just words?" The guy is truly a gifted writer.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Skronk on September 1, 2006
Format: Paperback
You've gotta love an eschatology that encompasses Bob Marley, Jesus and Quetzalcoatl.

Denis Johnson's coming of age story revolves around the boy Fiskadoro, and his

clarinet teacher, Mr. Cheung. These inhabitants of Twicetown (set in the

post-WWIII Florida Keys), some of whom speak in a Spanglish or Rastafari patois, are

trying to restart civilization from the remains of the old. The apolcalypse has ruptured all

cultural continuity, leaving Twicetown's inhabitants with cryptic items from the past

from which they fashion their lives and beliefs. Old auto parts are fashioned into

furniture, phrases with forgotten meanings, song lyrics, and prophesies gleaned from a

children's book on dinosaurs all become part of their new creation myth: a post-modern

Popol Vuh.

Events in time seem to recycle and inform the future: One character, Grandmother Wright,

mute with age and senility, is trapped in her own memories of her escape from Vietnam during

the fall of Saigon. Her memories of her survival parallel the present: past becomes prologue

to the future.

With me so far? This book might be a tough introduction to Denis Johnson's work, but for me, his poetic turns of phrases made me stop several times in order to reread and savor select

passages. Overall, Fiskadoro shows that now matter how advanced our civilization may be, we're only a misstep away from new, spooky world.
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8 of 10 people found the following review helpful By "adamted" on January 24, 2002
Format: Paperback
This is a glowing work, rendered in a luminous prose that seamlessly undulates between bright-pale caprice and dimmed, primitive(in tone, not execution) heaviness. Fiskadoro is a tale of the ancient human tribes of the future and Johnson is our masterful archeologist/anthropologist, an amnesiatic clairvoyant of the end of the world. We're presented with a post-apocalyptic glimpse of humanity's persistence in the lush yet devastated area south of the Florida Keys. It's a story about time's confluence, the ghosts of history's wandering presence in the present(our future), the self as a product of culture, the self as an ever dying vessel of forgetting, family, greed, born leaders, born failures, birth, death. To attempt to further encapsulate this novel is to truly do it a disservice for it unfolds magically before the reader's eyes, transports us far away to the here and now... if that makes any sense. Its somber tones(somber in the way a cello seems to lament at the same frequency of the heart) are moving, its compassion mixed with sudden moments of darkness is striking, its thematic, structural, and philosophical complexities are easily savored, devoured, drunk, basked in... for Johnson tells it with a sensitivity and a love and a vision that is both unique and rare(inspiring).
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