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About Denis Johnson
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A New York Times Notable Book for 2011
One of The Economist's 2011 Books of the Year
One of NPR's 10 Best Novels of 2011
Denis Johnson's Train Dreams is an epic in miniature, one of his most evocative and poignant fictions.
Robert Grainer is a day laborer in the American West at the start of the twentieth century—an ordinary man in extraordinary times. Buffeted by the loss of his family, Grainer struggles to make sense of this strange new world. As his story unfolds, we witness both his shocking personal defeats and the radical changes that transform America in his lifetime.
Suffused with the history and landscapes of the American West—its otherworldly flora and fauna, its rugged loggers and bridge builders—the new novella by the National Book Award-winning author of Tree of Smoke captures the disappearance of a distinctly American way of life.
NATIONAL BESTSELLER • NAMED ONE OF THE TEN BEST BOOKS OF THE YEAR BY Dwight Garner, The New York Times • Maureen Corrigan, NPR’s Fresh Air • Chicago Tribune • Newsday • New York • AV Club • Publishers Weekly
“Ranks with the best fiction published by any American writer during this short century.”—New York
“A posthumous masterpiece.”—Entertainment Weekly
NAMED ONE OF THE BEST BOOKS OF THE YEAR BY The New York Times Book Review • The Washington Post • NPR • The Boston Globe • New York Public Library • Kirkus Reviews • Bloomberg
The Largesse of the Sea Maiden is the long-awaited new story collection from Denis Johnson. Written in the luminous prose that made him one of the most beloved and important writers of his generation, this collection finds Johnson in new territory, contemplating the ghosts of the past and the elusive and unexpected ways the mysteries of the universe assert themselves.
Finished shortly before Johnson’s death, this collection is the last word from a writer whose work will live on for many years to come.
Praise for The Largesse of the Sea Maiden
“An instant classic.”—Newsday
“Exceptional luminosity . . . hits a powerful vein.”—The New York Times Book Review
“Grace and oblivion are inextricably yoked in these transcendent stories. . . . [Johnson’s] gift is to extract the beauty in all that brokenness.”—The Wall Street Journal
“Nobody ever wrote like Denis Johnson. Nobody ever came close. . . . We’re just left with this miraculous book, these perfect stories, the last words from one of the world’s greatest writers.”—NPR
Once upon a time there was a war . . . and a young American who thought of himself as the Quiet American and the Ugly American, and who wished to be neither, who wanted instead to be the Wise American, or the Good American, but who eventually came to witness himself as the Real American and finally as simply the Fucking American. That's me.
This is the story of Skip Sands—spy-in-training, engaged in Psychological Operations against the Vietcong—and the disasters that befall him thanks to his famous uncle, a war hero known in intelligence circles simply as the Colonel. This is also the story of the Houston brothers, Bill and James, young men who drift out of the Arizona desert into a war in which the line between disinformation and delusion has blurred away. In its vision of human folly, and its gritty, sympathetic portraits of men and women desperate for an end to their loneliness, whether in sex or death or by the grace of God, this is a story like nothing in our literature.
Tree of Smoke is Denis Johnson's first full-length novel in nine years, and his most gripping, beautiful, and powerful work to date.
Tree of Smoke is the 2007 National Book Award Winner for Fiction.
Nelson has some serious problems. His marriage has fallen apart, and he may lose his land, cash and crop in the divorce. What's more, in need of some quick cash, he had foolishly agreed to smuggle $90,000 worth of cocaine through customs for Harry Lally, a major player in a drug syndicate. Chickening out just before bringing the drugs through, he flushed the powder. Now Lally wants him dead, and two goons are hot on his trail. Desperate, terrified and alone, for Nelson, there may be only one way out.
This is Denis Johnson's biggest and most complex book to date, and it perfectly showcases his signature themes of fate, redemption and the unraveling of the fabric of today's society. Already Dead, with its masterful narrative of overlapping and entwined stories, will further fuel the acclaim that surrounds one of today's most fascinating writers.
Resuscitation of a Hanged Man is Denis Johnson's most fully realized novel to date, an enthralling and shattering reading experience, which probes the mysteries of faith, hope and love.
Part political disquisition, part travel journal, part self-exploration, Seek is a collection of essays and articles in which Denis Johnson essentially takes on the world.And not an obliging, easygoing world either; but rather one in which horror and beauty exist in such proximity that they might well be interchangeable. Where violence and poverty and moral transgression go unchecked, even unnoticed. A world of such wild, rocketing energy that, grasping it, anything at all is possible.
Whether traveling through war-ravaged Liberia, mingling with the crowds at a Christian Biker rally, exploring his own authority issues through the lens of this nation's militia groups, or attempting to unearth his inner resources while mining for gold in the wilds of Alaska, Johnson writes with a mixture of humility and humorous candor that is everywhere present.
With the breathtaking and often haunting lyricism for which his work is renowned, Johnson considers in these pieces our need for transcendence. And, as readers of his previous work know, Johnson's path to consecration frequently requires a limning of the darkest abyss. If the path to knowledge lies in experience, Seek is a fascinating record of Johnson's profoundly moving pilgrimage.
From the National Book Award–winning, bestselling author of Tree of Smoke comes a provocative thriller set in the American West.
Nobody Move, which first appeared in the pages of Playboy, is the story of an assortment of lowlifes in Bakersfield, California, and their cat-and-mouse game over $2.3 million. Touched by echoes of Raymond Chandler and Dashiell Hammett, Nobody Move is at once an homage to and a variation on literary form. It salutes one of our most enduring and popular genres—the American crime novel—but with a grisly humor and outrageousness that are Denis Johnson's own. Sexy, suspenseful, and above all entertaining, Nobody Move shows one of our greatest novelists at his versatile best.
"Perfection is not the basis of what I'm talking about," says a member of the Cassandra family, which forms the center of Denis Johnson's plays, Hellhound on My Trail and Shoppers Carried by Escalators Into the Flames. The character could be speaking for his creator, because human imperfection is one of Denis Johnson's specialties -- in his critically acclaimed novels, short stories, and nonfiction, and, now, in two brilliant new plays.
These two works present a dramatized field guide to some of the more dysfunctional and dysphoric inhabitants of the American West: a sexual-misconduct investigator who misconducts herself sexually; a renegade Jehovah's Witness who supports his splinter Jehovean group by dealing drugs; the Cassandra Brothers and their father and their grandmother, thrown together at a family reunion/wedding/melee at their shabby homestead in Ukiah, California.
When Shoppers Carried by Escalators Into the Flames was performed in San Francisco in 2001, the Chronicle said, "There's an enormous appeal in Johnson's bleak-comic vision of a semi-mythic American West." That appeal derives from the author's perfect vision of imperfection, embodied with such energy and courage in these marvelous pieces of theatre.
Two plays—hilarious and searing in equal measure—by one of our most essential and original authors
In his poetry, short stories, novels, and plays, the National Book Award-winning author Denis Johnson has explored the story of America—especially of the West, land of self-made men and self-perpetuating myths—with searing honesty and genuine sympathy. These two plays, written in verse at once hypnotic and clear, confirm his position as one of our great verbal stylists and a literary conscience for our times.
In Soul of a Whore, a lively cast of characters—faith healers, pimps, strippers, actual demons—converge, with unexpected hilarity, as Bess Cassandra awaits execution for the murder of her infant daughter. Purvis's seven reverse-chronological scenes catalog the fall and rise of Melvin Purvis, the G-man who brought down John Dillinger and Charles Arthur "Pretty Boy" Floyd. Johnson takes us from Washington's back rooms to a Midwestern cornfield, dramatizing the seductive allure of power and our own human capacity for both pettiness and grace.
In these furiously entertaining, occasionally terrifying works, Johnson chronicles and questions America's myths, heroes, and everyday realities with verve and elegance, revealing himself once again to be at the height of his linguistic and insightful powers.
The acclaimed author of Jesus' Son and Already Dead returns with a beautiful, haunting, and darkly comic novel. The Name of the World is a mesmerizing portrait of a professor at a Midwestern university who has been patient in his grief after an accident takes the lives of his wife and child and has permitted that grief to enlarge him.
Michael Reed is living a posthumous life. In spite of outward appearances -- he holds a respectable university teaching position; he is an articulate and attractive addition to local social life -- he's a dead man walking.
Nothing can touch Reed, nothing can move him, although he observes with a mordant clarity the lives whirling vigorously around him. Of his recent bereavement, nearly four years earlier, he observes, "I'm speaking as I'd speak of a change in the earth's climate, or the recent war."
Facing the unwelcome end of his temporary stint at the university, Reed finds himself forced "to act like somebody who cares what happens to him. " Tentatively he begins to let himself make contact with a host of characters in this small academic town, souls who seem to have in common a tentativeness of their own. In this atmosphere characterized, as he says, "by cynicism, occasional brilliance, and small, polite terror," he manages, against all his expectations, to find people to light his way through his private labyrinth.
Elegant and incisively observed, The Name of the World is Johnson at his best: poignant yet unsentimental, replete with the visionary imaginative detail for which his work is known. Here is a tour de force by one of the most astonishing writers at work today.