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Jesus' Son by Denis Johnson
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Jesus' Son (original 1992; edition 2009)

by Denis Johnson, Will Patton (Reader)

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1,880443,662 (4.1)82
Member:edpwheeler
Title:Jesus' Son
Authors:Denis Johnson
Other authors:Will Patton (Reader)
Info:Macmillan Audio (2009), Edition: Unabridged, Audio CD
Collections:Your library
Rating:****1/2
Tags:None

Work details

Jesus' Son by Denis Johnson (1992)

  1. 00
    Starve the Vulture: A Memoir by Jason Carney (whitewavedarling)
    whitewavedarling: Starve the Vulture is a memoir, and far removed from Johnson's fiction, but if you can handle and appreciate the content and the humor of one of them, you'll be glad to have found the second.
  2. 00
    Between Nowhere and Happiness by Daniel Kine (Anonymous user)
    Anonymous user: Like Jesus Son, Between Nowhere and Happiness follows a young artistic type through Heroin addiction and love.
  3. 02
    Palo Alto: Stories by James Franco (werdfert)
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English (43)  Spanish (1)  All languages (44)
Showing 1-5 of 43 (next | show all)
Holy. Will Patton performs the reading, and his voice is for me the novel: raspy yet clear, despondent yet resolute.

"Jesus' Son" is a collection of loosely connected short stories. The title comes from Lou Reed's "Heroin": "When I'm rushing on my run / and I feel just like Jesus' son." The stories flow and interconnect like memories, outside of time. Past and present combine to form a kind of 'eternal present' -- everything is remembered, nothing forgotten. Past and present provide reciprocal commentary and clarification. One e.g. will have to suffice:

In "Work," the narrator (an alcoholic, drug-addicted writer) describes a day spent salvaging copper wire from a fellow-alcoholic's foreclosed-on home. A day's work nets them $36 each, and so they head to The Vine, a local bar. The narrator tells of a fabled female bartender who poured drinks so liberally, "it was like doubling your money." The narrator loved her deeply, platonically, from afar, for her libationary liberality. Call it anaclitic. The narrator talks of running into her one day long after the Vine had closed and been demolished (a victim of gentrification). They made eye contact and he smiled warmly. She seemed to think he was coming on to her. But he wasn't. What follows is the rest of the story, more or less verbatim:

"[speaking of the female bartender:] But I will always remember you. Your husband beat you with an extension cord. You stood in the rain, sobbing, as the bus pulled away. But you were my mother."

That last line stopped me cold. With three sentences Johnson shows how the past is always present, how the narrator has carried with him since childhood the haunting memories of first watching his mother's abuse and then, in a way, contributing to that abuse as he breaks her heart by growing up and leaving the old maternal nest (at least this is how I read it). This is precise, perfect writing.

And, as for describing the 'human condition,' you can't beat this description from the collection's first story:

"His blood bubbled out of his mouth with every breath. He wouldn’t be taking many more. I knew that, but he didn’t. I looked down into the great pity of a person’s life on this earth. I don’t mean that we all end up dead, that’s not the great pity. I mean that he couldn’t tell me what he was dreaming, and I couldn’t tell him what was real."

That story ends with screaming cotton balls in a doctor's office. The narrator simply didn't want to be responsible for making life right.

One-'n' Denis is not to be trifled with.
( )
  evamat72 | Mar 31, 2016 |
“And sometimes a dust storm would stand off in the desert, towering so high, it was like another city – a terrifying new era approaching, blurring our dreams.”

Denis Johnson’s stories in [Jesus’ Son] are like the desert wind. In one minute they are whip around you and scour the earth. In the next, they are a gentle, welcoming breeze on your face. They touch down in whims, unheralded and capricious. They wreak havoc in one place while leaving the sand untouched just a few feet away. In their wake, you feel changed. Not exactly refreshed so much as different, altered.

That Johnson first came to attention as a poet is evident in the elegant language on display throughout:

“Sometimes I went during my lunch break into a big nursery across the street, a glass building full of plants and wet earth and feeling of cool dead sex>”

“We lay down on a stretch of dusty plywood in the back of the truck with the daylight knocking against our eyelids and the fragrance of alfalfa thickening our tongues.”

“For a while the day was clear and peaceful. It was one of the moments you stay in, to hell with all the troubles before and after. The sky is blue and the dead are coming back. Later in the afternoon, with sad resignation, the county fair bares its breasts.”

But beyond the language, Johnson’s keen eye for humanity is also at work. His stories are an exhibition of the fringe, the life that exists in the periphery. In these stories about the lost, he captures us all – the longing for something more in the same mind that works against us in the scrabble. If you can’t see yourself in the unnamed narrator, you’re deluded beyond any chemical alteration. But seeing yourself there will be painful.

Bottom Line: Spare, surreal, and provocative – beautiful language describing us all, even if we don’t want to see it.

5 bones!!!!!
A favorite for the year. ( )
2 vote blackdogbooks | Mar 13, 2016 |
Another short story collection with a ton of hoopla about it. Pretty good stories of deadbeats and their lives and dope and booze, which apparently the author knows from his own life. You can pick this slim volume up and put it down and read it in bits. I had no idea that he influenced so many writers. He reminds me a bit of my misspent youth and the fiction of James Purdy. ( )
  annbury | Feb 18, 2016 |
The profusion of hype surrounding this book's publication was enough to avoid reading about it. Richard Hell talked about it recently, which reminded me to pick up a copy. Now delving into it and wondering what Lou Reed thought of the book and the author and all the dead bodies piled up in mounds.
  Fnarkle | Nov 12, 2015 |
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When I'm rushing on my run
And I feel just like Jesus' Son...

-Lou Reed, Heroin
Dedication
For Bob Cornfield
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A salesman who shared his liquor and steered while sleeping...A Cherokee filled with bourbon...A VW no more than a bubble of hashish fumes captained by a college student...And a family from Marshalltown who head-onned and killed forever a man driving west out of Bethany, Missouri...
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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0060975776, Paperback)

The unnamed narrator in Jesus' Son lives through a car wreck and a heroin overdose. Is he blessed? He cheats, lies, steals--but possesses a child's (or a mystic's) uncanny way of expressing the bare essence of things around him. In its own strange and luminous way, this linked collection of short fiction does the same. The stories follow characters who are seemingly marginalized beyond hope, drifting through a narcotic haze of ennui, failed relationships, and petty crime. In "Dundun" the narrator decides to take a shooting victim to the hospital, though not for the usual reasons: "I wanted to be the one who saw it through and got McInnes to the doctor without a wreck. People would talk about it, and I hoped I would be liked." Later he takes his own pathetic stab at violence in "The Other Man," attempting to avenge a drug rip-off but succeeding only at terrorizing an innocent family. Each meandering story--some utterly lacking in the usual elements of plot, including a beginning and an end--nonetheless demands compulsive reading, with Denis Johnson's first calling as a poet apparent in the off-kilter beauty of his prose. Open to any page and gems spill forth: "I knew every raindrop by its name. I sensed everything before it happened. I knew a certain Oldsmobile would stop for me even before it slowed, and by the sweet voices of the family inside that we'd have an accident in the storm."

The most successful stories in the collection offer moments of startling clarity. In "Car Crash While Hitchhiking," for instance, the narrator feels most alive while in the presence of another's loss: "Down the hall came the wife. She was glorious, burning. She didn't know yet that her husband was dead.... What a pair of lungs! She shrieked as I imagined an eagle would shriek. It felt wonderful to be alive to hear it! I've gone looking for that feeling everywhere." In "Work," while "salvaging" copper wire from a flooded house to fund their habits, the narrator and an acquaintance stop to watch the nearly unfathomable sight of a beautiful, naked woman paragliding up the river. Later the narrator learns that the house once belonged to his down-and-out accomplice and that the woman is his estranged wife. "As nearly as I could tell, I'd wandered into some sort of dream that Wayne was having about his wife, and his house," he reasons. Such is the experience for the reader. More Genet than Bukowski, Denis Johnson lures us into a misfit soul's dream from which he can't awake. --Langdon Cook

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:24:30 -0400)

(see all 4 descriptions)

Denis Johnson chronicles the wanderings of a young man as he struggles with addictions to drugs and alcohol. Separated into eleven stories, the young man eventually snaps out of his downward spiral and checks into rehab.

(summary from another edition)

» see all 2 descriptions

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