Seek: Reports from the Edges of America and Beyond
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Seek: Reports from the Edges of America and Beyond

3.89 of 5 stars 3.89  ·  rating details  ·  691 ratings  ·  56 reviews
Part political disquisition, part travel journal, part self-exploration, Seek is a collection of essays and articles in which Denis Johnson essentially takes on the world. And not an obliging, easygoing world either; but rather one in which horror and beauty exist in such proximity that they might well be interchangeable. Where violence and poverty and moral transgression...more
Hardcover, 238 pages
Published April 24th 2001 by Harper
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M. Sarki
Johnson brought back memories of my own trips to Alaska, flying in float planes in terrible storms, wanting to always fly with the experienced old pilot who had crashed numerous times only because he knew how to survive them, the old Beaver cargo planes, wilderness jaunts, loggers, whiskey, and barges. A story relating to the wilds of Alaska, actually being there and still living to tell about it, is no easy feat.

I was surprised by this book of essays as I did not know Johnson was so involved as...more
Sean Beaudoin
Denis Johnson is one of the best writers in America. There. Anything else need be said? Oh, yeah, this is a bunch of mostly non-fiction essays that are mostly very interesting and contain of all Johnson's trademark humanity, philosophy, descriptive ability, and lack of ego. Johnson travels from a Rainbow Gathering to Somalia to settle in and get a feel of things without making judgments. No grand pronouncements, just observation.
Gabe Baker
At times a memoir, at times gonzo, Seek records Johnson's adventures both within and without the borders of the United States. While war-torn Afghanistan, Liberia and Somalia provide the more dramatic settings, I found Johnson's travels through American fringe culture more compelling. Johnson meets Rainbow Children, Bikers for Jesus, and right-wing militia men on their own terms, and describes them with detail and with humor. Johnson is sympathetic towards indivuals and suspicious of organizatio...more
A. Gamble
There are some good pieces in this work, but they weren't the ones I expected to like. Where I thought "Jesus bikers" would be interesting, they bored me; where I thought "not another hippie piece" or "not another Africa report" I found, at the Rainbow gathering, hilarity and, in Africa, Johnson's backbone. Occasionally (and, for that matter, oddly) dull, but overall a good collection of essays by a fine writer.
Diann Blakely
When the author of JESUS' SON appeared in the NEW YORK TIMES Sunday magazine talking not about sex, drugs, and rock ’n’ roll, but about the radically libertarian survivalist movement and its underground, one could almost hear the hip literary world’s collective gasp. Did Johnson’s newfound fascination with subjects like Ruby Ridge and Eric Paul Rudolph’s still successful evasion of the law in the Smoky Mountains mean that he was turning into an anti-big-government Republican? Or worse?

This new c...more
Colin N.
"Seek" is a collection of journalism by Denis Johnson from the early 1990s. The chapters span from his reporting in war torn areas such as Somalia, Liberia, and Afghanistan to his explorations of the fringes of life in America: a bikers for Jesus rally, a hippie festival, Alaskan survivalists, the towns in the area where Eric Rudolph avoided capture. The stories describe Johnson's interactions with the people in these areas and groups and his thoughts on each.

Overall I thought this work was deci...more
Kilburn Adam
I've read quite a bit of Denis Johnson's fiction. I especially liked Tree of Smoke, and Jesus' Son. But this book of journalism and essays, is something completely different.

He visits war torn countries like Irag, Afghanistan, Liberia, and Somalia.

His trip to Afghanistan was way before 9/11. When The Taliban were in power. He just crossed the Khyber Pass, and headed to Kabul. I was quite impressed with this trip. Unlike Don McCullin who tried to enter Afghanistan during the soviet invasion. Hi...more
ds white
now I am not as big a denis johnson fan as people would believe me to be. I think on occasion he throws out some amazing sentences and even better paragraphs, but his novels as a whole suffer. I loved Seek: Reports from the Edges of America and Beyond, it was his element. Like I say about Sam Lipsyte, he should stay with the short story for his novels lack. Saunders, lutz they know thier barriers and do not try do be something bigger than they are, but in their form they are as big as a rising m...more
Josh
"The villagers sit close together, everyone touching someone else, steeped in a contentment that seems, at this moment, perpetual. It occurs to the writer that the secret way to happiness is in knowing a lot of dead people." pg 150

"Billeh's been lent a Kalashnikov, sand-blasted smooth and dull like those of the other two, each with a thirty-shot clip that may or may not be full, they refuse to say, and also Lion carries a sort of rocket, or grenade, that screws down onto the muzzle of his Kalash...more
Kaya
Dipped back into this recently and remembered how great some of these essays are. "Hippies" is probably my favorite (having grown up around Rainbow Family folks), but many other things in here are also great and timely reading today.
Steve
This book kicks some ass. I personally like his depiction of Civil War torn Liberia but Bikers for Jesus was equally unique.
Tyler Berrio
The language was so bogged down by needless exposition. I was bored with every single story in this collection.
Rand
excellent portrayal of fragmentation in contemporary american life.
it's a trip. it'll do ya good.
Jeremy
All of these journalistic essays are good but a few of them are great. In "Hippies," Johnson and a few of his old buddies (who were real hippies back in the day), come out of retirement to attend The Rainbow Festival in Oregon. Looking at his aged companions Johnson says "How did we all get so old? Sitting around laughing at old people probably caused it" (20). The guys relive some of their former excesses (shrooms and all), but Johnson is cynical, haunted: he knows where all of this goes. "In a...more
Kai
«In questo branco di persone [...] vedo l'epitome della mia generazione; [...] la nostra politica, una confusione di Rosso e Verde all'ombra della bandiera nera dell'Anarchia; sbronzi e benintenzionati, sicuri delle nostre convinzioni, soddisfatti di noi stessi. Ottusi, ipocriti, intolleranti». Denis Johnson, scrittore e giornalista del “New Yorker” è debitore del modus scrivendi di Carver, di Auster e in qualche modo di Fante, ma non solo. In questo Seek, reports from the edges of America and B...more
S J
There is amazing writing in this book, reporting on situations and places most of us never go and that the news media never covers in depth. The hopelessness of war is made evident through a grueling effort of a reporter to get an interview with a self-proclaimed president of half of Liberia. It's not the graphic horror of the battlefield (though there is a little of that) but an exhausting, mind-boggling failure to get anywhere amidst a sort-of laid-back chaos that makes the point.

I have quibb...more
J
«In questo branco di persone [...] vedo l'epitome della mia generazione; [...] la nostra politica, una confusione di Rosso e Verde all'ombra della bandiera nera dell'Anarchia; sbronzi e benintenzionati, sicuri delle nostre convinzioni, soddisfatti di noi stessi. Ottusi, ipocriti, intolleranti». Denis Johnson, scrittore e giornalista del “New Yorker” è debitore del modus scrivendi di Carver, di Auster e in qualche modo di Fante, ma non solo. In questo Seek, reports from the edges of America and B...more
Graham
Denis Johnson has been one of my favorite authors since I first read "Already Dead" over a decade ago. His combination of violent, brutal realism with the sort of hazy, dreamlike imagery that is so often the purview of those who've spent much of their lives self-medicating creates a world where the all-to-real can intersect with the seemingly surreal within a turn of a phrase.

This collection isn't an exception to his oeuvre, except that rather than harsh realism, "Seek" trades in harsh reality....more
Kallie
Denis Johnson is one of my favorite writers, but I don't think reportage is his milieu. I expected too much, probably: Kapuscinski with Johnson's voice? Johnson's insights come through fiction better, in my opinion. For travel and cultural observation, I would prefer Kapuscinski, Didion, Malcolm, or even Bowden (who can be pretty melodramatic, but wow). Part of the problem is a lack of context. Where exactly is the author when: "For two days, the former president and his brother dangle from thei...more
Josh
Somewhere in between Hunter S. Thompson and Charles Kuralt lies Dennis Johnson and his book Seek: Reports from the Edges of America and Beyond. Seek documents various aspects of American life both at home and abroad. Stories tell about a newlywed couple flying to Alaska to mine for gold to make their wedding bands, old hippies trying to regain the momentum and spirit of the sixties only to find out that it passed them by, trying to meet with the President of Liberia during a civil war, trying to...more
Sarah Pascarella
Johnson is reckless so you don't have to be. Whether it's going to hell (Liberia) and back--twice--and reporting on what he found, to trying to parse whether backwoods Montanans and North Carolinans are just quirky or actually dangerous, Johnson opts to explore the difficult, the unexplored, the road no one wants to travel. What he finds on his respective journeys is unsettling. Perhaps most unsettling, though, is that this collection was published in 2001, and thus takes on a much more ominous...more
Simon Fellowes
A terrific series of reportage essays, as timely as they the day they were written. Really goes to show the range of Denis Johnson as a writer. Particularly powerful is the piece on his attempt to meet the Liberian president Charles Taylor (finally found guilty of war crimes in 2012). Gripping stuff.
Dianne
There is no place that Denis Johnson won't go--physically, emotionally, and psychotropically. Somehow his searing takes on everything from Liberia to aging hippies in Northern California or camping with the Boy Scouts in the Philippines as an 11 year old feel simultaneously like an arsonist with a flamethrower who leaves nothing in his trail, and a kind-hearted fool who just can't help but leave a seed or two behind to take root in the tarpit of evil or hope that he's left behind. He takes the S...more
George Nap
Odd book, but it covered a lot of ground I was interested in. His writing style is engaging, although sometimes, well, odd. He writes some of his vignettes in the first person and then some of them in the third person.

I thought about giving this book three stars, rather than four, but then realized that 1) I could not put this book down, 2) These stories need to be told and read.

So, thanks, Denis Johnson. I would love to have a coffee with you someday. I really enjoyed your book and advise oth...more
Jason Diamond
Johnson's essays read like his fiction. You really can't go wrong with that. I'm just disappointed that I waited so long to read this.
Patrick O'Neil
Denis Johnson’s book Jesus’ Son was one of the first books that I read that made me really feel like there was somebody else out there that was like me: just as confused, messed up and in search of something that neither of us knew what. His book Seek, Reports from the Edges of America & Beyond continues to give me faith. Only this time it isn’t because we’re kindred souls wandering the country on an opiated binge. It’s because obviously I’m not the only one that sees the strangeness that li...more
Jeff Tucker
Denis Johnson can certainly turn a phrase. I enjoyed several of the short stories in this book. My favorite was probably ‘The Lowest Bar in Montana’. The stories about Africa were too much for me. The first one was too violent and troubling. The last one ‘The Small Boys Unit’ seemed to drag on forever and I’m not sure what the point was. Never-the-less, except for that last story, the book was enjoyable
Peter Kobel
I've admired Denis Johnson's novels for years but only just got around to this nonfiction collection. He doesn't simply reprint his longform journalism; rather, he expands on the articles, offering novelistic depth and nuance. The best pieces are based on Johnson's reporting on the First Liberian Civil War, a horrific, cruel conflict with bizarre and surrealistic elements.
Terry
Sep 24, 2007 Terry rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Anyone
Jesus' Son hooked me on Denis Johnson. I wanted to gobble up another Godiva & this one was almost as good. Excellent reportage on the crazy Liberian regime of Charles Taylor, bikers, & other magazine pieces on fringe American characters written for money. Unfortunately, writers need money to live. Jeez, I thought they subsisted on air and Madeleine cake!
Andrewhouston
Johnson is a great writer and I thought this sounded like it would be a great book also. But I was a bit disappointed with this book. What I read I just found to be okay. It seemed like Johnson was just "phoning it in" on this one. It didn't seem like he really tried that hard, just doing the basics to fulfill some contractual obligation he had.
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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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