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Jesus' Son: Stories by Denis Johnson

Jesus' Son: Stories (original 1992; edition 2009)

by Denis Johnson (Author)

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
2,460664,554 (4.1)129
Denis Johnson's now classic story collection chronicles a wild netherworld of addicts and lost souls, a violent and disordered landscape that encompasses every extreme of American culture. These are stories of transcendence and spiraling grief, of hallucinations and glories, of getting lost and found and lost again. The insights and careening energy in Jesus' Son have earned the book a place of its own among the classics of twentieth-century American literature.… (more)
Title:Jesus' Son: Stories
Authors:Denis Johnson (Author)
Info:Picador (2009), Edition: First Edition, 133 pages
Collections:Your library

Work details

Jesus' Son: Stories by Denis Johnson (1992)

  1. 00
    A Manual for Cleaning Women: Selected Stories by Lucia Berlin (wandering_star)
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 02
    Palo Alto: Stories by James Franco (werdfert)

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Showing 1-5 of 65 (next | show all)
The man we know only as Fuckhead is a total mess. As the main character in the interconnected short stories comprising Denis Johnson’s enthralling Jesus’ Son, he has little to recommend for himself, including being an inveterate liar and thief who is addicted to both drugs and alcohol, as well as a Peeping Tom and even a bunny killer. What may be even worse, though, is that he is a consistently unreliable narrator whose fractured, drug-addled memories give the entire volume a frenetic and disjointed presentation style. In tale after tale, the reader is introduced to the seedier side of life as Fuckhead and his reprobate associates move from run-down bars to squalid hotels to dead-end jobs when they are not in rehab facilities in an often-cynical attempt to clean up their lives. In short, this is a book that, collectively, paints a very grim picture of society’s underbelly with virtually no hope or salvation in sight.

So, why did I love reading this brief book so much? There are many reasons, really, but chief among them would have to be the author’s brutally direct but incredibly electric writing. In Fuckhead, Johnson perfectly captures the rhythms and mindset of an intelligent, but highly troubled young man who cannot manage to pull himself out the self-inflicted hole he’s put himself in and, for the most part, does not seem to care to try. Among the best of the stories, most of which were published independently in prestigious literary magazines before being collected into a single volume, were ‘Two Men, ‘Work’, ‘Emergency,' ‘The Other Man’, and ‘Beverly Home’. Although each of these works involve different events—and is set in various locales, from somewhere in the Midwest to Seattle to Phoenix, underscoring the shiftlessness of Fuckhead’s existence—by the end they combine into a fully realized narrative. There is nothing pretty or redemptive to be found in Jesus’ Son, but it is riveting nonetheless and an absolute classic. ( )
1 vote browner56 | Aug 1, 2021 |
A book I'm going to be turning over in my head for a while. Johnson's voice is clear and strong in a strange, mystical way (to borrow an adjective that everyone and their mom seems to use when talking about this). My one complaint is that a lot of the stories feel too short to the point of feeling incomplete - the last one, Beverly Home, is maybe the only one that feels long enough to feel whole. Overall, though, this is very good. ( )
  skolastic | Feb 2, 2021 |
This is a collection of related stories with a seemingly common narrator. I say seemingly because it is hard to believe that a single individual, regardless of his drug and alcohol addictions, could be involved in all the incidents that take place in these stories. This is an individual so dependent on drugs that it is difficult to believe we are seeing much of his true personality. It is as if his personality is submerged in water and we are viewing it through the water. Given his behavior, we hope that what we are seeing is not all there is of his personality and character. This is a dark, dark world Denis Johnson creates. You keep looking for some glimmer of hope that the narrator’s life can change or that he is somehow different than what we see. The ability of Denis Johnson to create this individual is, while maybe difficult for us to consume, amazing.

In the final story, Beverly Home, and the only story that really provides any hope, the narrator works 10 hours a week at a residence for the elderly, mentally impaired and physically impaired. We see some human kindness in the narrator as he is conscientious in performing one of his assigned duties, which is to create some physical connection with the residents through touch. And yet, on his way home each night, he stands outside of a house watching a woman shower and then watching she and her husband interact, including sex. Is he longing for a similar human connection or is he substituting a different type of behavior for his drug use? ( )
  afkendrick | Oct 24, 2020 |
The vast majority of the world's purple prose is written about pain and suffering. Writers overly romanticize poverty, addiction, and despair to the point where a reader struggles to imagine how pain could be anything other than fierce and unrelenting. We know better, of course. Pain can be dull, suffering can be listless, and the worst of all human feelings can be the absence of any feeling at all. It's easy to forget that even the whirlwind life of a downtrodden addict isn't always about highs and lows.

In Jesus' Son, Denis Johnson presents a man whose life is worth examining for many reasons aside from its extremes. Over 11 short stories, our narrator reveals a personality that doesn't quite fit the profile on his would-be Wikipedia page. Many of his actions fall outside the boundaries of respectability (rightfully so), and Johnson never attempts to sell the reader on his creation. But after reading the whole story, I don't feel the narrator would even want to be defended. Were he held accountable for his actions, I doubt he'd be too upset. Despite his fall into poverty and addiction, he seems to hold few grudges and doesn't really blame anyone other than himself, and he never falls to wallowing in self-pity. Maybe its due to Johnson's style of prose or to the short story format, but the narrative never bothers to leave space for any of the narrator's baggage, which is unique among stories of this kind that I've read.

I appreciated the restraint Johnson showed with his prose. Many of the stories have a hallucinatory quality to them, feeling as likely to be something from the narrator's dreams as from his life. This aura made the moments of intensity in the book exponentially more powerful, and power's not easy to create in stories that are just a few pages long. Jesus' Son is an excellent example of making more of less, something I wish that a few of my favorite old Russians would have tried at some point. ( )
  bgramman | May 9, 2020 |
as dark and powerful as everyone says. ( )
  ThomasPluck | Apr 27, 2020 |
Showing 1-5 of 65 (next | show all)
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» Add other authors (2 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Denis Johnsonprimary authorall editionscalculated
Patton, WillNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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When I'm rushing on my run
And I feel just like Jesus' Son...

-Lou Reed, Heroin
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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Denis Johnson's now classic story collection chronicles a wild netherworld of addicts and lost souls, a violent and disordered landscape that encompasses every extreme of American culture. These are stories of transcendence and spiraling grief, of hallucinations and glories, of getting lost and found and lost again. The insights and careening energy in Jesus' Son have earned the book a place of its own among the classics of twentieth-century American literature.

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