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Jesus' Son by Denis Johnson
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Jesus' Son (1992)

by Denis Johnson

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
2,191564,463 (4.1)121
  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 (55)  Spanish (1)  All languages (56)
Showing 1-5 of 55 (next | show all)
Denis Johnson was a master at the short story. The prose is spare and direct and very effective at conveying the struggles his characters face and showing how they, nevertheless, still maintain hope. These stories deal with a working-class despair, poverty and drug addiction. The last story in the collection seems to point to some redemption, although it's not complete. Highly recommended. ( )
  redwritinghood38 | Nov 6, 2018 |
I'm sure almost everyone reads this in one sitting. It isn't that many pages, and there are a lot of blank ones in there as well, and the type is spaced wider than usual--but you'll read it in one sitting because the words just flow off the page into your head. Everything here, whether it is the happenings in a home for the mentally ill, or in the emergency room, or in a car, just seems so real. Some live, some die, some just muddle on. Life is a mess, but somehow life is also beautiful. Riding along with Johnson never gets boring. ( )
  datrappert | Oct 30, 2018 |
Read this book.

It is difficult to tell you why. There is not much like it, outside of comparisons to short story giants like Carver. Beautiful, searing, and leaves you with a lasting buzz. ( )
  JaredOrlando | Feb 2, 2018 |
I think I liked this collection of short stories, by Denis Johnson, more than I liked Hemingway's. Hemingway doesn't speak to me as well as Mr. Johnson. I think the reason is because Hemingway has courageous or drunk or sexist men (or all three) for his subject matter, whereas Denis' main character is some loser with (perhaps) a lot of heart. He comes off as a bystander to his life...and for some reason I found this captivating. It also helps that Denis knows how to write brilliant sentences. ( )
  weberam2 | Nov 24, 2017 |
“The vine was different every day. Some of the most terrible things that had happened to me in my life had happened in here. But like the others I kept coming back.”

“That moment in the bar, after the fight was narrowly averted, was like the green silence after the hailstorm. Somebody was buying a round of drinks. The cards were scattered on the table, face up, face down, and they seemed to foretell that whatever we did to one another would be washed away by liquor or explained away by sad songs.”

This story collection, feels like a potent brew, cooked up by Ken Kesey, Charles Bukowski and Lou Reed. A hallucinogenic stew of barflies, addicts, mental patients and misfits, living at the bottom or on the fringes of a derelict world. There is sadness and pain in these stories but there is also a glimmer of redemption. Obviously, this not for all tastes, some readers will flee in horror, but I found Johnson's wounded prose a transcendent joy.

“All these weirdos, and me getting a little better every day right in the midst of them. I had never known, never even imagined for a heartbeat, that there might be a place for people like us.” ( )
1 vote msf59 | Sep 7, 2017 |
Showing 1-5 of 55 (next | show all)
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Epigraph
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)

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"An intense collection of interconnected stories that portray life through the eyes of a young man in a small Iowa town"--Publisher's description.

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