The Resuscitation of a Hanged Man: A Novel
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The Resuscitation of a Hanged Man: A Novel

3.65 of 5 stars 3.65  ·  rating details  ·  869 ratings  ·  46 reviews
Resuscitation of a Hanged Man is Denis Johnson's most fully realized novel to date, an enthralling and shattering reading experience, which probes the mysteries of faith, hope and love.

ebook, 224 pages
Published March 5th 1991 by Farrar, Straus and Giroux (first published 1991)
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This is my favorite of the 3 of his I've read, a brief story of a conscientious guy in personal despair trying to make sense of a world that he views as uncaring and screwed up, so he moves to Provincetown, of all places, and falls in love with a lesbian. Yes, there's humor. Catholic guilt, the Church, and Vietnam play a significant role in his troubles, not to mention economic insecurity, and his attempt at recovery includes becoming a third rate assistant to a private detective, who may be the...more
Chris Gager
Starting tonight. In between Harry Potters...

I almost read the whole thing in one sitting but I needed to go to bed. I'll finish tonight. Once more we're invited into the world of one seriously messed up dude. As in Jesus' Son, Already Dead, The Stars at Noon and Angels one of the issues is substance abuse, a topic DJ is intimately familiar with. In this book we also got some religious juice poured on top. That's something that came to the author in recovery. NOT interested... As in Tree of Smok...more
I decided, last night, not to finish this book (I got over half way through.) The main character is so sad and confused that it started really bumming me out. The writing itself was intriguing and quite poetic. I enjoyed the monologue/dialogue and some of the descriptions used, but it just wasn’t enough to keep me reading. This book is so depressing and boring that just thinking about it is causing me angst.
I'll admit that I'm jealous of Denis Johnson. Jesus' Son is one of my favorite collections of short stories because its prose has a kind of powderkeg efficiency that I admire, and because nobody does shellshock quite like Johnson.

That said, this book drove me up the wall. While many moments in it were sharply precise, even lyrical, the novel suffers from too much distance from its main character, and hamhandedly gestures towards a satire of spiritual determinism that comes off as a little half-...more
Michael Beeman
Leonard English, the flawed hero of Johnson’s darkly comic novel, moves to Cape Cod’s Provincetown during the winter lull following the suicide attempt suggested in the novel’s title. Beginning one job as a night DJ at the local radio station and another as an assistant to a private detective, English often finds himself wandering Provincetown’s late-night streets, and is quickly caught up in the tight social circle of any off-season tourist town. Throw in a missing artist, a star-crossed love t...more
Carl Brush
I really wanted to read Denis Johnson’s newest--Tree of Smoke, but I didn’t want to spring $27.00 for the hardback, and my library didn’t have it available right away, so I grabbed Resuscitation of a Hanged Man in the interim. I’d never read anything else by this prolific writer, and a reviewer of Tree said that Johnson was his favorite living author. Jumping into Resuscitation was a good move on my part.

In the world of this early (published 1995, set in 1980-81), everything is off kilter, whic...more
Ann M
This is an amazing book. Excerpt:

"And I asked myself: The way you are now, would your eight-year-old self approve of you? Would your eight-year-old self -- that totally innocent child, with those ideals that are real, man, and human -- would he approve?"

The tall thin man got up and headed out the door.

"No fucking way. I was betraying that kid," Phil said, "my childhood self. I'm talking about the real feeling of like if you stuck a bayonet in your buddy's back, not just ripping off a friend or s...more
Johnson's grinding journey into the sepulcher of modern American spiritualism is a harsh path to follow, but the authors mastery of disintegration is enthralling.

Constantly flirting with poetry, his prose retains the hard edges needed to make it vivid and by turns exhausting and awakening.

The central character bears heavy themes in an unhinged, pansexual and progressively, surreally spiritual geography of the fringe.

Really, a poetry of salvaged lives in an increasingly complex world.
Where is th...more
Alan Brickman
About facing despair. The language is beautiful. My car broke down and I was waiting for my girlfriend to pick me up, and I read the line, "He was happy to see the empowering things of man slide sideways into their natural uselessness," and I'll never forget it.
Tony Moore
this book felt so good starting out and then just flailed aimlessly around, making less and less sense. i skimmed to get to the end and it still was too long (and it's only like 250 pages). after Angels, this was a huge disappointment.
Quirky books that are well-written are my favorites. Of course, the well-written part makes the difference, but if it has both elements and, by the end, I'm wanting to read more of what the author has out there, that's, for me, a kind of treasure, and this book is that. Protagonist Lenny English's sheer ineptitude progresses from odd to almost frustrating, but Johnson, with a definite appreciation for absurdity, skillfully manages to observe the humor in misery and human relations, and he keeps...more
Heather Smith
I have tried several other Johnson novels, and this is without question his best. The only thing that compares to it is Jesus' Son, the short story collection. Still, for my money, this is not only Johnson's best book, it is one of the 20th century's greatest novels. Superficially, the story is an utterly pessimistic novel lacking any moral center, the sort of novel that the late John Gardner might have condemned, along with so much contemporary American fiction, as "cynical and escapist." The n...more
Tyler Jones
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Tyler Collison
This is the the first novel I've read by Denis Johnson (The Name of the World and Nobody Move were novellas), but the quality of Resuscitation remains consistent (though there, I'd be sort of working in retrospect, as the latter was published long before the others—I digress).

It's clear to me after reading this and Johnson's other work that he is a master of the humorous realism of everyday, original conversation. Often his characters become distracted from the subject of conversation—in this c...more
Chilly SavageMelon
I might talk myself out of the the fourth star in time, but it was such a page turner and I'm still riding the high.

It's hard to relate what is so enjoyable about the hallucinatory tale of this loser bumbling around in small town New England, working in a radio station and as a PI. Slowly he unravels more and more and finally finds himself at peace in a miserable place. Moments of humor are definitely part of it, like the protagonist talking with a Vietnamese immigrant (relevant to mention, at t...more
Reminded me of Robert Stone's Hall of Mirrors and found it equally annoying as I did not pick up the vibe of this insane, unreliable narrator. I did not care enough about the character to get invested with whether he was delusional and the plot was delusional. Both books had colorful settings, New Orleans and Provincetown, but that wasn't enough for me.
Gradaully I realized I was reading a detective novel, and having a lot of fun.

I've read three books by Johnson now and am impressed with how different they all are. What they share in common is exploration of unexpected places in the United States, in this case Cape Cod and a little bit of Franconia Notch, New Hampshire.

Every character in this book is peculiar in a believable way and often hilarious. The characters speak the type of dialogue that you automatically hear in your mind - and once th...more
A pleasant enough tale of life in a small town by the Cape Cod beach, invaded by hordes of celebrating transvestites and butch girls every summer, and wistfully observed through the eyes of a man who didn't die when he hanged himself back in Kansas. He tries to get involved with one of the girls, but she's not monogamous, and he is. He's also doing detective work for his boss, the owner of a radio station, and it leads him to find out about some mysterious militia group and a missing amateur art...more
Okay, whoa, this book is strange and tender and maybe a little whacky and underwhelming at the end. It's definitely entertaining, though. And a great insight into where Johnson was at shortly before he wrote Jesus' Son. In fact, some parts of this book almost feel like practice for that masterpiece. Many of the scenes and phrasings that take place here can be found, in an altered and much more refined form, in Jesus' Son. Certainly not a great book, but essential Johnson reading nonetheless.

Jun 02, 2009 Sarah rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: people who like detectives and explicit sex but don't like religion
by turns strange, funny, eerie, and really gross (i'm lending the book to my mom and there is a section on animals in test laboratories that i am just marking for her as not to read because it would upset her too much), this neo-noir detective story is written in a direct and beautiful style. Like many of Johnson's other books, it explores the sometimes creepy conspiracy-like elements of religion and why people keep trying to find faith even when they barely have it (but it explores this in an i...more
provincetown was a cool setting for a total wreck of a dude. picked pace up at end-

"I'll tell you what I feel like, kissing you," he said to her. "I feel like somebody's writing swear words on my balls."

Suddenly his eyes burned, he felt sexy, and he wanted to take off his clothes and dance around, fondling himself and screaming. In a while he did exactly that; he tossed aside his garments, even his shoes and socks, and for a few minutes, until he got too cold, he pirouetted whitely through the...more
Very strange and dark - but writing is beautiful and poetic.
This book was quite enjoyable. It is impossible not to get submerged into the story, Johnson hooks you and never lets go. Denis Johnson is a master of the English language. It seems like every word is necessary for the story. Johnson has a focus on providing the reader a well-written novel that lacks useless page-filling words. Resuscitation of a Hanged Man makes you question your own life. This book is truly a work of art. A+ for Denis Johnson and Resuscitation of a Hanged Man.
I'm real close to giving this book 5 stars - the story itself is crazy and wonderful and engaging (a book to really gobble), the writing is absolutely masterful, the characters bizzare and unique - I guess I just didn't particularly dig the end. Don't know what I expected or how it couldn't been different, but there ya go, that's my honest feeling. In any case, maybe it wasn't totally amazing, but I did *love* the experience reading it. I've become a total fan of Denis Johnson.
Got through the first 1/3 anyways
Jun 02, 2007 --Ed. rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: writers who want to write about crazy people
I learned from this book that Denis Johnson can indeed write a novel every bit as good as his short story collection, Jesus' Son. It's about a guy living in Provincetown, MA during the offseason, working part-time as a radio dj, part-time for a private investigator. Sounds like it would be over the top, but people who have read Jesus' Son know DJ is more of a master of hallucinatory, poetic prose.
Another example that Denis Johnson is the greatest living American writer around. He's able to weave a sentence and story that's both poetic and incredibly evil and twisted with such ease... you'll put your pen down in defeat if you're an aspiring writer. Read this (but stay away from Already Dead - that one was a misstep).
This book was written as if a white male in his early 30's diagnosed with Paranoid Schizophrenia in the midst of florid psychosis attempted to document his life by dictating it to a white male in his early 20's who is just trying his hand at writing but really thinks he's hot shit.
Leave it to Johnson to give us a book as insane as the main character of this one. It sucked me in, but I definitely felt Lenny's confusion. He's nuts...there's just no other way to say it. The book is wild, and good. Johnson has lived up to his reputation yet again.
A pseudo-detective stories that mashes Catholic contrition, queer sexuality and paranoid schizophrenia in a blender. I thought it was a great head-trip. I felt the psychosis just oozing from this story, especially leading up to the unexpected climax.
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Poet, playwright and author Denis Johnson was born in Munich, West Germany in 1949 and was raised in Tokyo, Manila and Washington. He holds a masters' degree from the University of Iowa and has received many awards for his work, including a Lannan Fellowship in Fiction (1993), a Whiting Writer's Award (1986), the Aga Khan Prize for Fiction from the Paris Review for Train Dreams, and most recently,...more
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Jesus' Son Tree of Smoke Train Dreams Nobody Move Angels

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