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Train Dreams: A Novella by Denis Johnson

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

by Denis Johnson (Author)

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1,3009610,971 (3.94)242
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.
Title:Train Dreams: A Novella
Authors:Denis Johnson (Author)
Info:Picador (2012), 116 pages
Collections:Your library

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Train Dreams by Denis Johnson (2002)

Recently added byprivate library, sharvani, cwmast, Jinjer, Lahoori, Jnthn
  1. 10
    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.
  2. 01
    The Dog Stars by Peter Heller (bookworm12)
  3. 01
    The Searcher by Tana French (bookworm12)

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» See also 242 mentions

English (91)  Italian (1)  Dutch (1)  Norwegian (1)  French (1)  Spanish (1)  All languages (96)
Showing 1-5 of 91 (next | show all)
Well this was perfect
  brendanowicz | May 9, 2021 |
The writing in this powerful novella is reminiscent of John Steinbeck. The author captures the transition to an industrial economy in the Western United States in this portrait of one man's life. The protagonist, a day laborer, experiences a tragic loss and then has to rebuild a new life. Meanwhile, trains and planes appear as a new world is being built, post WWI. Will Patton is an excellent reader, which enhances the experience as well. Denis Johnson had such a masterful use of prose, conveying a series of vivid, intense scenes. Excellent read! ( )
  hemlokgang | Apr 12, 2021 |
I picked this one up in anticipation of our upcoming trip to Idaho. The slim novella is set there but I wasn’t sure what to expect. I was surprised by the heartbreaking picture of grief and loneliness that I found. Robert Grainier, a railroad worker in the early 1900s, loses his wife and daughter in a fire and the rest of the book paints a picture of his quiet life through the decades. It reminded me a bit of The Searcher and The Dog Stars. ( )
  bookworm12 | Feb 15, 2021 |
Mostly style, this is the life story of a man who never had much, lost what he had and continued on, in the Idaho mountains. ( )
  quondame | Jan 31, 2021 |
Train Dreams by Denis Johnson is a novella that packs quite a punch. It is the life story of Robert Grainier, an American railroad laborer and captures both a specific time in American history and paints a vivid description of this small corner of the United States where it is set. The time period is the early 20th century and the place is the northern panhandle of Idaho. The building of the railroad and the trains that travelled through are the stepping stones that this story is built upon.

Robert comes to northern Idaho on the train in 1886, a foundling sent to be raised by his aunt and uncle. He works on the railroad and even after marriage, he travels the railroad seeking work. He arrives home after an absence of some months in 1920, only to find that a huge fire has consumed the valley and his home destroyed. He finds no trace of his wife or small daughter. He eventually rebuilds his cabin and remains on the property until his death in 1968. By the end of his life, he had never travelled very far from his home and what travelling he did, was done by train.

This is a deceptively simple story. It details the life of one man who lives a quiet life, but has suffered a huge tragedy. Set in rural Idaho and Washington, this portrait allows us to feel the depth of emotion that is hovering just under the surface. For such a short book it is packed with events from Grainer’s life and always in the background is the mythology of the railroad which anchors the story and supplies pictures of the slow progression of history. Written in sparse but beautifully descriptive prose, Train Dreams is a small gem of a book. ( )
1 vote DeltaQueen50 | Jan 11, 2021 |
Showing 1-5 of 91 (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 (7 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Denis Johnsonprimary authorall editionscalculated
Polman, MaartenTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed

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In de zomer van 1917 nam Robert Grainier deel aan een aanslag op het leven van een Chinese arbeider die betrapt was op diefstal, of daar in ieder geval van beschuldigd werd, uit het bedrijfsmagazijn van de Spokane International Railway in de noordelijkste punt van Idaho.
In the summer of 1917 Robert Grainier took part in an attempt on the life of a Chinese laborer caught, or anyway accused of, stealing from the company stories of the Spokane International Railway in the Idaho Panhandle.
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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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