Jesus' Son: Stories

Denis Johnson, Author
Denis Johnson, Author Farrar Straus Giroux $19 (160p) ISBN 978-0-374-17892-5
Reviewed on: 11/30/1992
Release date: 12/01/1992
Paperback - 176 pages - 978-0-06-097577-7
Open Ebook - 96 pages - 978-1-4668-0688-7
Paperback - 133 pages - 978-0-312-42874-7
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Taking its title from a line in Lou Reed's notorious song ``Heroin,'' this story collection by with-it novelist Johnson focuses on the familiar themes of addiction and recovery. In his novels ( Angels ; Resuscitation of a Hanged Man ) Johnson has shown his ability to transform the commonplace into the extraordinary, but this volume of 11 stories is no better than, and often seems inferior to, the self-destruction/spiritual rehab books currently crowding bookstore shelves. All of the tales, set in the Midwest and West, are told by a single narrator, and while this should provide unity and depth, instead it makes the stories fragmentary and monotonous. Some disturbing moments do recall Johnson at his inventive best, as when a peeping Tom catches sight of a Mennonite man washing his wife's feet after a marital spat in ``Beverly Home,'' or when the narrator 'fesses up to his fright in a confrontation with the boyfriend--``a mean, skinny, intelligent man who I happened to feel inferior to''--of a woman he's fondling in ``Two Men.'' But for the most part the stories are neurasthenic, as though Johnson hopes the shock value of characters fatally overdosing in the presence of lovers and friends will substitute for creativity and hard work from him. Even the dialogue for the most part lacks Johnson's usual energy. (Dec.)
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