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Jesus' Son Audible – Unabridged

4.4 out of 5 stars 211 customer reviews

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Format: Paperback
The beauty of Johnson's prose is evident in every one of these stories. The subject matter is dark, depressing, hallucinegenic, and yet the collection's overall feel is uplifting. Johnson could have written some cliched grotesqueries about the drug life, could have piled on the filth and dirt of it all, but he doesn't. The down-and-out characters, most of them junkies and criminals, are given a healthy dose of humanity, where a lesser writer would have turned them into abominable caricatures. Unlike most post modern writers, Johnson cares deeply about his characters and this comes out in every story. He doesn't follow the pomo aesthetic by declaring that life is inherently meaningless or hopeless, far from it. What we come to find in this amazing collection is the presence of hope in all things, no matter how low or degraded things might appear. And that is precisely what Denis Johnson shows us. There is beauty in everything, and if we can't see that, then we are not fully human.
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Format: Paperback
This slim book can easily be read in a few hours. The short stories are all vignettes out of the lives of the addicted and the desperate.
What this book does, better than any other book I've read, is capture the beauty and tragedy of these lost lives. Johnson is great at imagery, whether the misty, sunlit dive bar on a rickety pier, or the deserted drive-in in the snow. He's also great at writing from the inside of these characters-- their tragic worldview makes sense through their eyes. The hallucinatory beauty of these "prose-poems" goes hand-in-hand with the altered perceptions of the characters-- these people live as if in a dream state.
If you're ready to write off people on the fringes of society, then you probably won't appreciate this book. Like he did in "Angels," Johnson takes these forgotten people, and makes them live and breathe on the page. Many times, his characters seem more truly alive than those who would write them off or forget about them.
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Format: Paperback
I've never read anything by Chuck Palahniuk. I know about him, however, because the movie 'Fight Club' is based upon Palahniuk's novel of the same title. Chuck Palahniuk is a big fan of Denis Johnson's collection of short stories, 'Jesus' Son.' A recent article about Palahniuk in Poets & Writers Magazine says that Palahniuk 'has read 'Jesus' Son' over and over'more than two hundred times.' Palahniuk says, in that article, 'whenever I'm stuck, that's a book I read to sort of jump start myself.'
Palahniuk's endorsement was good enough for me. Any book that someone has read more than two hundred times must be worthwhile, or at least worth taking a look at. Besides, this remarkable collection of short stories is only 160 pages long, the pages are small (I measured it and it was about 7' x 4'), and there are not many words on each page. It doesn't take long to read. If it matters, I also always knew Denis Johnson was out there, a highly regarded poet and novelist, ever since 'Fiskadoro' had been published more than a decade ago. I had to read something by him sometime.
I sat down last night and started reading 'Jesus' Son' and didn't put it down until I was finished. It didn't take me long and was worth every minute. 'Jesus' Son' contains eleven short stories, all written in the first person, all connected by the common voice of the same narrator, a young, strung-out misfit whose pathology permeates every story. The stories are grim, just like the dark, desperate life of the narrator, just like the violent, disconnected, drug-clouded lives of the people who surround him. They are stories in which the narrator seemingly transcends his life, his drug- and alcohol-induced cloud of unknowing illuminating an at times crystalline-pure vision of the world.
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Format: Paperback
At first, I confess, I didn't know what to make of the stories that make up the collection "Jesus' Son". What does one make of stories about someone who is an addict through and through, determinedly ruining his life because it no longer seems to matter what happens to him? During the first fifty pages I had a visceral reaction to this book that was making me not only dislike it, but become angry at it; why should I care about people who won't help themselves, what is there to like about any of these people, etc. Then I began to notice tiny glimpses of carefully disguised humanism that leaked out of Johnson's prose, and went back to see if I had been missing them all along (sure enough, they had been there the whole time). I can only guess that my initial reaction was too volatile to pick up on subtle nuances of hope, and I am glad that I stuck with it long enough for that to die down because "Jesus' Son" is actually a remarkably heartfelt work despite its visceral tone. The characters are damaged and desperately unhappy people underneath their angry, hardened exteriors -- desperate for a connection that they can't bring themselves to hold on to, nor are they willing to put themselves out to get it. We never get to see why any of them are so damaged, which is mildly frustrating, but since it doesn't matter to the plots of the stories anyway it would have been out of place to get a lot of exposition. The misadventures and sometimes untimely demises of these characters are seen through the eyes of an unnamed narrator who lives among them, drinks with them, does drugs with them, uses them and is used by them. He is angry, confused, and suicidal, making his narration a spellbinding excursion into the pathos of the addict.Read more ›
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