Just Finished…Jesus' Son: Stories by Denis Johnson

One Sentence Summary

It’s a cycle of stories, sharing the same narrator, about addiction and the search for redemption in amongst the least redeemable people in society.

Favorite Sentence

“And you, you ridiculous people, you expect me to help you.” (p. 12)

or

“And with each step my heart broke for the person I would never find, the person who’d love me.” (p. 37)

or

“But nothing I could think up, no matter how dramatic or completely horrible, ever made her repent or love me the way she had a first, before she really knew me” (p. 92)

or

“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.” (p. 137).

Why I Read It

I first read this nearly ten years ago in a fiction writing workshop in college taught by Judy Budnitz. I remembered it was great, but little else about it. I was in the mood for a quick read, and it caught my eye from my bookshelf.

Favorite Thing About the Book

Nearly every single sentence is a work of genius. (Anything I could add could never do it justice. They’re fantastic.)

Least Favorite Thing About the Book

I’m not really a fan of short stories — even the best short stories ever never seem to stay with me, unlike novels which live inside me forever — however, as this is more of a story cycle than a collection, it still accomplishes much of what a great novel does. With that said, while the totality of it is amazing, I’m not sure I could pick one or two stories that stand out as memorable.

Recommendation

Read this book. Right now. Seriously: drop what you are doing to read this book (if you love language and don’t mind unlikeable characters who do a lot of really bad things).

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One thought on “Just Finished…Jesus' Son: Stories by Denis Johnson

  1. Hey Steve. Nice posts up here. Will mos def check back.

    I’ve only read “Jesus’ Son” once, but I read it in one sitting, maybe two, which means I liked the book a lot. The thing I remember most was how reading the book made me want to write fiction immediately, which is how all great writing makes me feel.

    In an effort to convince you that short stories are truly the shit, I’ll have to put together a list of great quasi-contemporary short stories for you to read. With literature, I’ve always preferred the shorter forms: poetry, short stories. Not sure why. In hindsight, I think it may have to do with the idea that in order to pull off a great poem or short story, the writer has to be in total control. Less words means less room for error, and more of a focus on word economy, making every word count. What’s most essential lays bare. “The Great Gatsby” might be the one exception of a novel that also has this quality. Though a short novel, every sentence seems exquisitely crafted and purposeful with nary a wasted word in the entire text.

    Thanks for posting this.
    ~p

    it’s easier to to a writer

    Like

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