- Paperback: 256 pages
- Publisher: Harper Perennial (March 19, 2002)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0060930470
- ISBN-13: 978-0060930479
- Product Dimensions: 5.3 x 0.6 x 8 inches
- Shipping Weight: 8.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 16 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #521,854 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Seek: Reports from the Edges of America & Beyond
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From Publishers Weekly
As a fiction writer and poet, Johnson is known for his surreal portraits of the dispossessed lurking at the fringes of American life: the drifters, the jobless, the junkies and midnight DJ's. In this collection of 11 essays, which brings together pieces written over a 20-year period, he prefers to look at how those same individuals band together to form a new, often threatening, identity. His America is peopled with Christian Bikers in Texas, Alaskan frontiersmen, hippies both young and old, and right-wing militia members, all striving to create a life apart from the values associated with the mainstream middle-class. In addition to the essays on America, Johnson expands his canvas to take in the revolutions wrought by the dispossessed of the third world, in such places as Liberia, Afghanistan and Somalia. He finds true believers at every crossroad, whether it's in God, government, guns or all three, and manages to assess the quality of their conviction by travelling among them. Though Johnson is always clearly present as a narrator, he often only refers to himself in the third person or as a separate character altogether. This unusual narrative style infuses many of the essays with an askew, out-of-body point of view, which, while taxing to his credibility as a reporter, adds sincerity to his plight as a human. As a journalist, Johnson searches for something beyond headlines and, at least in this collection, that makes for an intriguing and insightful investigation. (May)Forecast: Essay aficionados may appreciate the offbeat style and subject matter, and Johnson's name recognition should attract loyal readers, but the book could be difficult to categorize and sell to those not already in the know.
Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information, Inc.--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
'Is Denis Johnson braver, more reckless, or just more foolish than most of those who pretend to the title "journalist"? It doesn't matter, in the end - he is willing to place his lonesome ass in the way of seriously bad and scary stuff, and then bring back the tale told better than it's ever been told before' - Esquire --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Top customer reviews
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There are thirteen pieces. The three best report on insane violence and mayhem in Africa -- two on the Civil War in Liberia (circa early 1990s) and the third on Somalia around the time of the withdrawal of United Nations forces (1995). Other subjects include a Rainbow Gathering in the Ochoco National Forest (mid-1990s); the Eagle Mountain Motorcycle Rally near Fort Worth, catering to "Bikers for Jesus"; the search in the Blue Ridge Mountains for the fugitive terrorist bomber Eric Robert Rudolph; and covering the First Gulf War from Dhahran, Saudi Arabia.
I found all but one of the thirteen pieces interesting to at least some degree. The three about Africa were riveting. But, as mentioned, the real reason to read SEEK is for Johnson's writing. Here is the first paragraph of a report from Kabul, shortly after the Taliban had captured it:
"The dogs hear the jets before they arrive overhead, so you get the dogs barking, the dogs yammering, every dog in the city of Kabul protesting the violence that approaches, then the shock waves of bomb blasts rubbing the windows, then the lights of the antiaircraft--some like red droplets whipped from a wand, others floating up like orange bubbles and bursting into smoky flares, and blinding, winking muzzle-bursts in the hills like a single light racing madly back and forth, and Stinger missiles rising on crimson tracers--all, for the first several seconds, in absolute silence; and then the distant knocking noises and little pops like ice cubes in a drink, no bigger than that, until nearer positions start up loudly enough to knock a person off a chair."
And here is Johnson, known to his two Somalian comrades or escorts as "White Boy" or "Mike from Idaho", looking at the night sky while laying on a mat with those comrades as the three wait for a convoy to leave Mataban, Somalia for the coast: "'We' are me * * * and two Mohameds--Billeh from Mogadishu and the Lion from Lobopar. We're going to Mogadishu with extremely vague notions as to what happens then . . . 'The Lion'--I suppose Billeh's the Tin Man, and we're looking out for the Scarecrow--and naturally I'm Dorothy, and I guarantee you, Africa is as close as you can come to the Land of Oz, or as close as anybody would want to come. In the dark it seems as distant to the horizon as to the sky overhead. No moon tonight, only every star there ever was * * *."
each one is an adventure because the topics are all new
reading Denis Johnson is something that I have done, quit and then w/this series of stories, will definitely start reading him again