Catelyn May's Reviews > Train Dreams

Train Dreams by Denis Johnson
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's review
Dec 15, 2011

really liked it
bookshelves: library-books
Read on December 15, 2011

I love novellas. I love beautiful prose. Thus, it would have taken a boring story, an annoying protagonist, or some other great fault for me to have not liked this book. This was the first I've read of Denis Johnson and I think it probably won't be the last.

This is a sad book, but not in the feel-bad-for-me look-how-terrible-my-life-is kind of way. An isolated man, melancholy yet sombre and resigned, moves through life, or rather drifts through life, in the American West. Surrounded by trees and silence and minimal human contact, he lives. He's not bitter, or angry, or even depressed in the way that we so often see in similar stories. The more I reflected on this book, the more haunted I felt by it.

All the beautiful moments here are centered around contact, human or non-human. When he holds the feet of the China-man alleged thief. When he realized while helping move a corpse that it's the first time he'd touched another human being since he can remember. When the "visitor" arrives injured on his doorstep.

This novella was everything a novella should be, and it was all those things beautifully.
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