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Train Dreams: A Novella by Denis Johnson
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Train Dreams: A Novella (original 2002; edition 2012)

by Denis Johnson

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652None14,979 (3.89)146
Member:kewing
Title:Train Dreams: A Novella
Authors:Denis Johnson
Info:Picador (2012), Edition: First Edition, Paperback, 128 pages
Collections:Your library
Rating:****
Tags:Pacific Northwest, Idaho, logging, trains, wolves, existential

Work details

Train Dreams by Denis Johnson (2002)

  1. 00
    Bright's Passage by Josh Ritter (zhejw)
    zhejw: Both short books are set in rural country in the early 20th century and involve a fire, a widower, and mysterious relationships with animals.
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English (57)  Italian (1)  Dutch (1)  All languages (59)
Showing 1-5 of 57 (next | show all)
An amazing little book... ( )
  alienhard | Mar 26, 2014 |
A solid 7.5. The story meanders a bit and Denis Johnson's wolf imagery was a little obvious (as soon as they mentioned the Wolf Girl I knew who she was). The story doesn't have that many interesting scenes after the great fire but the opening was very strong. Still, I enjoyed the book and a lot of Johnson's scenes were surreal and beautiful (opening scene on the scaffolding, the logging scenes, the fire, etc...) ( )
  blanderson | Mar 4, 2014 |
Train dreams is a long short story by the American author Denis Johnson. It deals with the sense of great personal loss.

Train dreams begins with a scene in which a Chinese worker is nearly killed, an incident laughed off, but imprinted onto Robert Grainer's mind. The apparent lightness about the value of the life of the Chinese immigrant is contrasted sharply with the loss of Robert's wife Gladys and his baby daughter Kate. Throughout the remainder of his life, he keeps mourning their deaths.

Train dreams seems a kind of retro-style prairy novel. While the story is set in the early 20th century, the feel of the story is that of the mid-nineteenth century, when the bulk of the railroads was built, and racial conflicts with especially Chinese immigrants, particularly those working on the railroads was more strongly pronounced.

The novella has some strong moments, such as when Robert discovers the charred remains of his homestead, but subsequent chapters are too short to bear out his grief in psychological depth. The short chapters only indicate the stages of his depression through iconic scenes, such as the idea that Robert might recognize his lost child in a stray wolf-girl. ( )
  edwinbcn | Dec 16, 2013 |
Described as an epic in miniature, this story of Robert Granier spans from 1817 to 1968. Robert Grainier is a day laborer, logger, homesteader and hermit. He loves and lost all but also made a business for himself. It is the story of America and the American dream. This is a set of loosely connected tales of Robert Grainier's life. ( )
  Kristelh | Nov 16, 2013 |
This is a short story that is well written, but for me it was boring. ( )
  zmagic69 | Nov 6, 2013 |
Showing 1-5 of 57 (next | show all)
Wie Treindromen leest, kan maar één reden bedenken - een armzalige - waarom dit boek geen prijs waardig werd geacht: de Pulitzerdames en -heren zullen het wel te dun hebben bevonden. Het beslaat inderdaad nog geen honderd pagina's. Maar in die beperkte ruimte presenteert Jonhson de rijkdom van een vuistdikke roman.
Treindromen is op een wonderlijke, knarsende manier zowel meedogenloos als vol compassie, een werk waarin Johnson zich een rauwe poëet en een meester van de suggestie betoont. Je moet wel een motherfucker zijn om zo'n boek geen Pulitzer Prize te gunnen.
added by sneuper | editde Volkskrant, Hans Bouman (Jan 26, 2013)
 
The denouement of Train Dreams is so tragic and surreal that the reader at first denies its grisly approach: yet when it comes, it is written with such credibility that it fulfils the book's theme, the collapse of the rational world for a decent man. Softly and beautifully, this novel asks a profound question of human life: is the cost of human society and so-called civilisation perhaps just too high?
The board of the Pulitzer prize for fiction failed to award it to the shortlisted Train Dreams – or to any work. Poor souls, cowering from the howls of the old American mountains.
added by sneuper | editThe Guardian, Alan Warner (Sep 13, 2012)
 
What Johnson builds from the ashes of Grainier’s life is a tender, lonesome and riveting story, an American epic writ small, in which Grainier drives a horse cart, flies in a biplane, takes part in occasionally hilarious exchanges and goes maybe 42 percent crazy.

It’s a love story, a hermit’s story and a refashioning of age-old wolf-based folklore like “Little Red Cap.” It’s also a small masterpiece. You look up from the thing dazed, slightly changed.
added by zhejw | editNew York Times, Anthony Doerr (Sep 16, 2011)
 
The visionary, miraculous element in Johnson's deceptively tough realism makes beautiful appearances in this book. The hard, declarative sentences keep their powder dry for pages at a time, and then suddenly flare into lyricism; the natural world of the American West is examined, logged, and frequently transfigured. I started reading "Train Dreams" with hoarded suspicion, and gradually gave it all away, in admiration of the story's unaffected tact and honesty.
added by zhejw | editThe New Yorker, James Wood (pay site) (Sep 5, 2011)
 
Train Dreams draws its title ostensibly from the fact that Grainier had “started his life story on a train ride he couldn’t remember, and ended up standing outside” another train, but it could just as easily stem from his early work experiences on the railroad, which “made him hungry to be around such other massive undertakings.”

By the end of the book, it seems as though this hunger has hardly been sated ― Grainier’s few celebrations are tiny and even his failures, while frequent, are never grand ― but Johnson’s accomplishment is grand, and this book, short as it is, feels like a massive monument to a deceptively simple life and the wilderness in which it was lived.
 

» Add other authors (8 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Denis Johnsonprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Polman, MaartenTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Book description
Denis Johnson’s Train Dreams is an epic in miniature, one of his most evocative and poignant fictions. It is the story of Robert Grainier, 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, this novella by the National Book Award--winning author of Tree of Smoke captures the disappearance of a distinctly American way of life.
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Presents the story of early twentieth-century day laborer Robert Grainer, who endures the harrowing loss of his family while struggling for survival in the American West against a backdrop of radical historical changes.

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