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Jesus' Son

4.16  ·  Rating Details  ·  19,576 Ratings  ·  1,386 Reviews
Jesus' Son, the first collection of stories by Denis Johnson, presents a unique, hallucinatory vision of contemporary American life unmatched in power and immediacy and marks a new level of achievement for this acclaimed writer. In their intensity of perception, their neon-lit evocation of a strange world brought uncomfortably close to our own, the stories in Jesus' Son of ...more
Mass Market Paperback, 160 pages
Published December 15th 1993 by Harper Perennial (first published 1992)
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The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot DíazJesus' Son by Denis JohnsonInterpreter of Maladies by Jhumpa LahiriDrown by Junot DíazBirds of America by Lorrie Moore
Best Reading for the Contemporary Writer
2nd out of 90 books — 185 voters
Nine Stories by J.D. SalingerThe Complete Stories and Poems by Edgar Allan PoeA Good Man is Hard to Find and Other Stories by Flannery O'ConnorDubliners by James JoyceThe Martian Chronicles by Ray Bradbury
Collections of Short Stories
111th out of 2,127 books — 1,585 voters

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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
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Aug 27, 2008 Ellen rated it it was amazing
Recommended to Ellen by: Bob
Shelves: alltimefaves
I once fell in love with a man just because he recommended this book to me. He had a glass eye and fingernails with with half moons of crust lodged underneath, thick and dark as coffee grounds. He was living covertly and temporarily for about four years in one of those storage units out by the interstate, and I would sometimes go see him when I wanted to get high or feel better about my life. At some point he died when they blew up a bridge to build a dam, and he happened to be sleeping undernea ...more
Mar 14, 2016 Nancy rated it really liked it
Recommended to Nancy by: Evan
Posted at Shelf Inflicted

I wasn’t sure if I would like this collection of loosely connected stories about a young guy who is addicted to drugs, sometimes homeless, sometimes employed, and occasionally steals. He’s not an especially likable character, but I enjoyed being a part of his thoughts, his views, and his haphazard journey through life. Maybe it's because I have empathy for addicts and others who live on the edge.

This powerful and gripping collection of stories was troubling, intense, an
Jun 16, 2013 Garima rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: s.penkevich

I stayed in the library, crushed breathless by the smoldering power of all those words—many of them unfathomable.

Sometimes I judge and consequently love a book based upon the following points:

- A single, beautiful line I longed to read or hear in the words of some person other than me.

- A completely related character.

- A completely unrelated character.

- The way it makes me laugh.

- The way it makes me cry.

- The way it makes me feel extremely good about the life I’m leading.

- The way it makes me
J. Kent Messum
Without a doubt, this is one of my favorite works of all time. Denis Johnson is a major influence of mine, and Jesus' Son had profound effect on me.

This was the book that showed me how far you could stretch your prose and still have it sound dynamite. A drug-addled mix of loosely interconnected stories, reading it is like navigating a string of dreams, both blissful and bad. The spectrum of themes is considerably wide, and the narrative draws you into worlds where you can feel as uncomfortable
Bill  Kerwin
Feb 09, 2016 Bill Kerwin rated it really liked it
Shelves: short-stories

A poetic, disorienting book of short fiction about semi-criminals, heroin addicts and idlers squandering their lives on the fringes of urban northern Idaho.

The narrator is an interesting study in contrasts--irresponsible, irrational . . . and yet gifted with moments of almost mystical clarity.
Sep 13, 2013 Steve rated it really liked it
Denis Johnson took the fringe sensibilities of The Beats, added his own raw poetic touches, nicked a line from Lou Reed for the title, and ended up with an intensely unsettling collection of stories that prefigured to a T the drug classic Trainspotting. You may wonder at first if the unnamed narrator of these accounts could really be such an uncaring cad. Well, as a bottom line, maybe so. But the thoughts of murder, the thieving, and the ultra-callous disregard for fellow man were in large part ...more
Junksick and Broke and Completely Alone in a Land of Bad Intentions

I've gone through three copies of ‘Jesus’ Son’, reading it like a prayer-book, though it’s nothing of the kind. There's a sadness living in every sentence, and it doesn't really have any suggestions for better living, beyond a painfully obvious cautionary tale. Drugs are bad, m’kay?

It's more like a manual for poetic self-immolation… burning yourself down to the foundation-stones and finding one beautiful thing in the ashes. Ev
Mar 06, 2016 Darwin8u rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2015, fiction
“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.”
― Denis Johnson, 'Jesus' Son'


Sometimes while reading this I thought I was reading Burroughs (just not so dark), other times J.G. Ballard (just not so cold), sometimes even Palahniuk (but with more of a poet's heart). It was madness, a fever dream, tied together with beauty. It was fragments of insanity st
Aug 27, 2007 Jonathan rated it it was ok
Recommends it for: sigh...
Look, I don't know how else to put this. I recognize what Johnson's accomplished here, I acknowledge that he has a gift for phrase-level shine, and I concede that these semi-linked stories evince a remarkably coherent and vividly-depicted worldview that I might call "hopelessly optimistic," or maybe "tending to carry on when there's clearly no good reason to do so," or else, more succinctly, "Conradian" . . . but, I'm sorry, what I couldn't help but think/feel, wading through one after another o ...more
Brent Legault
Mar 15, 2008 Brent Legault rated it it was amazing
This book ruined my reading bone for a long time. I wanted every story I read, every story by every other author, to be just like the stories in Jesus' Son. But of course they weren't and aren't and they stand alone in my mind, even now. Perhaps it's the whiskey talking, but I'd go so far as to call this little book one of the greatest of my generation. Not that such superlatives carry any weight anymore. I just can't get over this book. It was my first true love.
Apr 18, 2015 rahul rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Is there a way of writing the right stories about the right people,telling everything neatly from start to finish. An Uppercase letter starting the story and a full stop waiting at the end. A boy meeting girl on the first page and walking away with her in the last one.

Or are stories like these...snapshots of nightmares which some would call hell, but is home to some. Where beautiful sentences strike you out of the blue, so beautiful that you read them again and again, flashes of lightning in a d
May 29, 2012 Lou rated it really liked it
Dennis Johnson has a good way to describe things and has placed trouble riddled characters amongst some literal beauty.
A collection of stories tied together with a common theme of struggle and drugs.
He brings your eyes into the lives of characters on this earth with problems.

The few stories I mention are...

Car crash while hitchhiking
As the title say a powerful descriptive story where a hitchhiker is involved in an accident with a family including a baby.
Visceral and shows very well all that the
Nov 29, 2012 Melanie rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favourites

To find Rick Bass's words of praise in the opening pages, speaking about this great 50,000-volt kick thrill of a book, I knew that this would be just the thing to cure my reading inertia. I'd followed a Carson McCullers novel like a dream into the rabbit hole, shrunk and dreamed until This One woke me like a cruel Queen. Consider me awake.

Not unlike characters from the early works of McCarthy, the faces that come in and out of focus in Denis Johnson's fictional world are victims of their own mi
Franco  Santos
Mar 29, 2016 Franco Santos rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Un recorrido, capturando momentos, vidas rotas, desamparo, enajenación y destinos robados. Una colección de sueños e ilusiones, desde el punto solitario de individuos que desean el amor pero son incapaces de tocarlo sin herirlo. Son quemados por la pasión, lo que no entienden y lo que quieren pero no pueden tener.

Jan 08, 2016 Hossein rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: american-writers
براي من كتاب جالبي نبود.باز هم گول پيمان خاكسار و تعاريفش از كتاب هايي كه ترجمه ميكنه رو خوردم.
خريد اين كتاب مثل اينه كه بريد كافي شاپ و از ميان تا عنوانِ متنوع ،فقط آب معدني سفارش بديد.
از يازده داستان كوتاه فقط دو تاي آخر برام جالب بودن.(دستان بي لرزش در تيمارستان عمومي سياتل وخانه بورلي).
اما در كل نويسنده خيلي شجاعانه دست به اعتراف به اعتياد و بدبخت بودنش توي اون زمان ميزنه.
داستان ها سر ته درست و حسابي نداشت و در كل از خواندن كتاب لذت نبردم.
John Wiswell
Apr 23, 2008 John Wiswell rated it did not like it
Recommends it for: Literary readers who've read all the good books
I wouldn’t dislike this book so much if professors and literati hadn’t rubbed it in my face so much. Don't get me wrong - it wasn't entertaining, enlightening, intellectually arousing, and it didn't harbor any interesting characters or compelling scenes despite dealing with drugs, physical handicaps and multiple deaths. The narrator was far too pretentious with far too little beautiful writing or insight to pull it off. I was mostly bored or depressed, and occasionally outraged and how poorly wr ...more
Wayne Barrett

Life can be shitty and people pathetic. And Denis Johnson has described both with a poetic prose that allows the reader to glimpse the tragedy from a perspective that reveals the beauty among the dregs.

Jesus' Son is a linked collection of short stories that holds so many powerful lines that it is hard to believe that the content in which you found them was so dark and gritty. Very well written.
Niloo Beygi
خوندنش واقعا یکی از تجربه های خوب داستان خوانی ام بود. حتی می تونم بگم ناب. همون قدر که فیلم مرثیه ای برای یک رویای آرنوفسکی توی دوران خودش در سینما کاربرد شیسته ی فرم و محتوا بود این جا هم می شد این رو حس کرد. همونطور که گفتم توی ادبیات روایت های مربوط به افراد معتاد، قرص مصرف کرده، الکلی و متوهم کم داریم و این کتاب که به نظر میاد مجموعه داستان به هم پیوسته است و راوی کل داستان ها یه پسر جوونه. به نظر میاد از این جهت که به خاطر نوع داستانا خیلی سخت می شه به طور قطع این حرف رو زد اما شواهد زیادی ...more
Jul 06, 2008 Imogen rated it it was ok
I lost my phone charger, which meant I couldn't talk to the other people in my band about whether we were having band practice. I assumed we were going to, though, because we skipped the last two and we have a show on Wednesday. And we ALWAYS practice on Saturdays, right? So I lugged my guitar- usually it lives in the practice space, but I accidentally left it in Bex's trunk after we played the San Francisco Trans March ("This song is dedicated to everyone who throws around the word 'tranny' wit ...more
May 03, 2016 R. rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 1974-2002, 2016
The novelization of the Mountain Goats album We Shall All Be Healed. Or We Shall All Be Healed is actually Jesus' Son: The Musical!. Either way.


In "The Art of Reading Denis Johnson" (Poets and Writers, Nov/Dec 2013, pgs. 23-27), the guest columnist suggests that the line I knew every raindrop by its name is symptomatic of a "want of Wordsworthian affinity for the natural world, or a groping after a kind of Buddhist cohesion with the cosmos..."

I call bullshit on this Boston University
Dec 26, 2015 Erika rated it really liked it
This collection of stories is really short, but don’t let that fool you. Each word releases so much power that an hour spent reading Jesus’ Son carries the same impact as two hours of reading another book. Johnson throws off images like dazzling pieces of shrapnel, and for me, those gorgeous passages are what held the book together more than any actual plot.
The narrator is a junkie with a life so chaotic that you always have the feeling anything could happen at any second. He might see an angel,
Jul 01, 2009 Malbadeen rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: AJ
I don't usually care for books/stories/movies where drugs are the main topic of conversation but these characters' drug habbits were entirely secondary to their familiarity. There were so many underlinable moments that could've been missed because of the fast/easy pacing. At first I thought "Work" was going to be my favorite but I'm pretty sure "Beverly Home" takes up that spot in the end. Maybe after I pause to catch my breath I'll consider this 4 stars but right now I feel like I've been runni ...more
Nate D
Sep 30, 2008 Nate D rated it really liked it
Recommended to Nate D by: Jeremy, Ellen
A simultaneously lucid and dreamlike Trainspotting for the American Midwest. And it's as funny as it is poignant.

At first, I read everything at simple face value, drinking in bleary mood and vague, impressionistic set pieces. After a few stories, though, the disjointed action began to leave me looking for broader connections and meanings. But in the end, I'm content to leave it alone. If I find myself grasping at epiphany that skims fingertips but stays just out of reach and hazy, well, then I'm
Miss Ravi
شاید هیچ معتادی توی دنیا بعد از ترک اعتیاد به اندازهی دنیس جانسون از تجربههای زیستهاش اینقدر استفادهی مفید نکرده باشد که همه را بردارد و بگذارد توی یک مجموعه داستان مُدرن، پر از توصیفات امپرسیونیستی. تصویرهایی که در تضاد شدیدی با فضای شلوغ و سیاه آمریکای دههی هشتاد و نود هستند و همین تضاد شکل غریب و بکری به توصیفات داستانها داده و انگار نویسنده آنها را جایی در ماورای واقعیت بیرونی نوشته.

پیشنهاد میکنم داستانهای «تصادف موقع هیچهایک» و «کار» را به شکل ویژهتری بخوانید؛

آب در شیارهای آسفالت با سروصدا
Henry Martin
Jun 26, 2013 Henry Martin rated it really liked it
Jesus' Son was a rather interesting read. The stories contained within the volume all appear related, yet there doesn't seem to be any order as far as the timeline goes. Then again, the stories are from the point of view of a "fucktard".
Reading the praise on the back cover, given by various publications, I was expecting something entirely different from what I've got. The review snippets mention Twain, Burroughs, Kerouac, Whitman, Blake. I did not see it.
Nonetheless, to give praise where prais
Aug 03, 2015 Rafa rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Me gusta y está muy bien escrito. Pero me pasa lo mismo que con Selby y Carver, el realismo sucio me interesa poco.
Jason Coleman
Oct 07, 2011 Jason Coleman rated it it was amazing
Shelves: greatest-hits
Like Rimbaud, the Velvet Underground, and the 1970s Oakland Raiders--and unlike David Byrne, who lost it, or Lebron James, who never had it--Denis Johnson has mystique. He earned it largely through this, my second favorite book in the world. Think of it as Hemingway's Nick Adams on tequila and PCP, plus some pharmaceutical opium (and let's throw in a horse tranquilizer). Reading it for the fourth or fifth time (which I had not even planned to do, it just wouldn't let me go), I am struck by its u ...more
Mar 26, 2013 Ken rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
It’s probably no accident that so many of Denis Johnson’s characters find themselves in cars heading to nowhere. The misfits and sinners that populate his stories are lost, sometimes physically, but most often emotionally. They’ve succumbed to their past, which usually didn’t set them on a good path, so they can only keep driving forward even if its going in the wrong direction. The enthralling part of Johnson’s writing is that no matter how appalling we find the characters, we understand and sy ...more
Sep 08, 2007 Terry rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: most people
Denis Johnson was a bad alcoholic, druggie, and petty thief back in the day. These stories are from that time. Nowadays you almost have to state: I don't advocate the lifestyle. But the stories affected me like nothing since 9 Stories by Salinger.

Far from being downbeat or crazy, the stories are luminous, made of fine crystal, with sentences that burn: "Down the hall she came. She didn't know yet that her husband was dead. We knew. That's what gave her such power over us. She was glorious, burn
Sercan Vatansever
Boşvermişlik hissini sonuna kadar alabildigim bir kitap oldu. Bu açıdan ürkütücü olduğunu düşünüyorum. Kitapta sert, keskin ve belirsiz şeyler böylesine gürlerken akabinde ormanlardan, çiçekten, böcekten bu denli sakince bahsedebilmesi ve bunu yaparken kitabin kendine mıhlaması muazzam bir şey. Mükemmel tasvirlere ve tahlillere sahip.
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South Shore Readers: Discussion: Jesus' Son 3 21 Sep 25, 2014 12:12PM  
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What makes these stories so damn good? 10 106 Jun 12, 2013 04:57PM  
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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
More about Denis Johnson...

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“She wanted to eat my heart and be lost in the desert with what she'd done, she wanted to fall on her knees and give birth from it, she wanted to hurt me as only a child can be hurt by its mother.” 88 likes
“I knew every raindrop by its name.” 56 likes
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