Bjorn Arnesen's Reviews > Already Dead
by Denis Johnson
by Denis Johnson
Bjorn Arnesen's review
Oct 13, 10
Denis Johnson’s, Already Dead: A California Gothic depicts how one evades and travels through life having only the landscape as the ultimate guide. There are no shortcuts. The unexpected is to be expected when reading this novel because of all the twists and turns that are revealed. Drugs have become the salvation for Nelson Fairchild Jr., in the sense that he is in debt because of a cocaine deal, and in order to pay back the kingpin he must do what ever it takes, which is to open a marijuana farm. This is not the way to revive oneself. Surrounded by debt and the loss of not being included in his fathers inheritance, Fairchild Jr. must find a way, no matter what it is to bring himself back to life. The revival of the hippie era lives within this book. Denis Johnson engulfs the reader in the beginning of the book. The imagery used to capture the attention is immaculate. Every aspect of this story has been thought out without leaving anything astray or ignored. The characters all have their own distinct “self.” Either when it comes to his paranoid little brother or the junkie philosopher, they all grab the attention of the intention to not just entertain but to explore new routes of oneself. Besieged by death, murder, drugs, spirituality, and philosophy, Nelson Fairchild Jr. battles through himself. This story parallels the life of some of the California coastal life, not exactly to the word, but to some of the experiences. Being able to relate this to real life has helped understand how one would choose to live their life. The question that comes up is why would one choose to live like this? The real is answer is, that it is just how life plays out, there are no directions on what to do, curve balls are apart of life. It is how you handle the curve balls that are thrown at one, and whether you take a swing or not, you still decide the road of your life. In my opinion it is similar to the Robert Frost’s poem, The Road Less Traveled. Everyone has choices and Fairchild Jr. makes his because of the cards he has been dealt. Johnson speaks through Fairchild Jr. by describing Northern California as a place where the youth and the kindest and most progressive souls thrive. But in contrast yet there is still the murderous treachery that lies beneath the blinding light of the enlightened youth. A main theme that is sustained throughout the novel is human catastrophe. Johnson seemed to be very contrite towards the failures that were relevant within the characters. The driving force behind this novel is Nelson Fairchild Jr., but what controls and takes the reader on journey is the landscape. Fairchild Jr. is controlled by the natural factors of life and his environment. The influence of his surroundings is what guides him to his decisions and encounters with people and life.
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