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Resuscitation of a Hanged Man Paperback – June 19, 2001

12 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Library Journal

Leonard English, a failed suicide from Kansas, arrives in Provincetown, Massachusetts, in bleakest November to begin a new life as a private detective. The first thing he notices is that the women in town look remarkably mannish; then he realizes that they are men. The one real woman he meets is gay, but he pursues her anyway. A self-proclaimed "knight of faith," English tries to embrace Catholicism, but the local priest doubts his sincerity. Cut off from God and convinced that a secret paramilitary group is on his trail, English arms himself for a violent last stand. Johnson, author of the noir classic Angels (1983), here rehabilitates the Kierkegaardian religious novel. At once hilariously funny and profoundly serious, Resuscitation of a Hanged Man is philosophical fiction of the first order and a minor masterpiece of New England local-color literature.
- Edward B. St. John, Loyola Law School Lib., Los Angeles
Copyright 1991 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.


"A classic.... The touch of one of the finest American novelists writing today." -- --Los Angeles Times Book Review

"A cosmically charged fiction that combines hard-boiled theology and a redeeming wit -- the perfect spiritual tonic for tough times." -- --Kirkus Reviews

"An utterly brilliant and original talent, a novelist who reminds us just how wonderful fiction can be." -- --Philadelphia Inquirer

"Denis Johnson is an artist. He writes with a natural authority, and there is real music in his prose." -- --New York Times Book Review

"One of the best and most compelling novelists in the nation." -- --Elle

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 272 pages
  • Publisher: HarperCollins; 1 edition (June 19, 2001)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0060934662
  • ISBN-13: 978-0060934668
  • Product Dimensions: 8 x 5.3 x 0.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8.5 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (12 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,584,460 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

18 of 20 people found the following review helpful By Robert Bezimienny on April 20, 2002
Format: Paperback
It seems unlikely that anyone affluent and successful, or, to use a borrowed phrase, comfortable and powerless, would go in search of anything. Therefore Denis Johnson depicts characters in need, whose only true choices lie in how to fail, and they search endlessly for things, things as disparate as their own souls, meaning in the world, the love of another human being, a sensible ordering of their own thoughts. Their quests bear the taint of madness and of poetry - it is not surprising that they, his protagonists, not least Lenny English in this novel, cultivate ecstatic relationships with their gods, for such relationships blur all too readily into madness.
First and foremost Johnson is a poet. He prises moments and emotions from the depths of ordinariness and sets them wet and gleaming before our eyes. He gives us an insight into a human mind, its particular way of seeing (and avoiding) the world. Consequently, plot is of secondary importance, yet nevertheless this tale has twists and surprises enough to carry the reader steadily along, calmly swimming through events while waiting for the next unsettling insight, the next beautiful passage of prose.
It's also very funny. The humour can come from absurdity, or just from his ear for smart...conversation. He's read Kerouac and moved a long way on from there. In fact, Johnson is plain better than Kerouac.
If you like literature, then this novel is essential, as is Johnson's poetry, collected in "The Throne of the Third Heaven of the Nations Millenium General Assembly", and his short story collection "Jesus' Son".
It's interesting to compare what he's doing with the projects of other, perhaps more feted, contemporary American authors - say, Richard Powers or Don Delillo.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Henry Platte on April 9, 2004
Format: Paperback
This novel is quite bizzare. Not just garden-variety modernist bizzare, either. Odd things happen. Nothing is predictable; problems are solved in the most impossible ways, and relationships undergo incredible, unbelievable contortions - I can't explain why it works, but after closing it, and after blinking a couple of time and thinking _Boy_ was that weird, I had a sense of having finished something very profound. I think that for once Denis Johnson is completley on top of his game. He's incredibly talented, and he always displays that talent, but his other novels sometimes take _effort_ to appreciate - if you know what I mean - but here, you really have the sense that he knows more than you, that he's holding all the cards, that he knows exactly where the story is going and what effect he wants it to have on you. I think the fact that he could make a cohesive story around such a group of oddballs with such an outrageous plot is testament enough to his ability, but it's also a very good read. That said, it is really, really bizzare, and doesn't _settle_ easily - which I guess is the point, since the vision it holds out is one without much comfort and with a great deal of horror and grotesquery - but I generally prefer books which are at least somewhat more human.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By A Reader on September 1, 2005
Format: Paperback
A proper summary is not really possible here. You could say its about a lonely, bewildered character investigating some sort of paramilitary conspiracy in a seaside town full of transvestites. It's the voice that is really unique, though. The voice and the aching sense of bewilderment that hovers over everything are what sustain the interest, and create a superb eerie atmosphere. There are some belly-laughs too. This is the fourth Denis Johnson I've read, and would recommend it along with Jesus Son, the Name of the World and the Stars at Noon.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Clark on February 7, 2008
Format: Paperback
This book was quite enjoyable. It is impossible not to get submerged into the story, Johnson hooks you and never lets go. Denis Johnson is a master of the English language. It seems like every word is necessary for the story. Johnson has a focus on providing the reader a well-written novel that lacks useless page filling words. Resuscitation of a Hanged Man makes you question your own life. This book is truly a work of art. A+ for Denis Johnson and Resuscitation of a Hanged Man.
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5 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Bill Chaisson on October 7, 1999
Format: Paperback
Like _The Stars At Noon_, which I recently finished, this novel follows its protagonist on a descending spiral. While _The Stars_ was told entirely from the point of view of one of the more unreliable narrators in contemporary American literature, _Hanged Man_ reveals more by having important truths come out in the course of conversations between characters (as compared to _Stars_, where conversations were determinedly non-informative).
Leonard English is haunted by a failed attempt at suicide. He has been left in limbo, feeling closer to god, further from life and not the least bit closer to any kind of truth. You become aware of his descent into paranoid delusion by other people's reactions to him because his own internal dialogue continues to make a sad sort of sense.
He pursues the truth about the Truth Infantry, a missing artist and his girlfriend's sexuality with distracted doggedness. Many of the connections that he makes between the facts are borne out by information that is revealed to the reader and to Lenny, but that Lenny fails to share in any coherent way with anyone else. The consequences are not good.
The prose in this book is unfailingly gorgeous. Denis Johnson has managed to get down on paper all those impressions that we have of the world around us when we are feeling terrible in that way that makes everything vivid, inter-related, menacing and beautiful.
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