Michael Beeman's Reviews > Resuscitation Of A Hanged Man

Resuscitation Of A Hanged Man by Denis Johnson
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's review
May 16, 2012

really liked it

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 triangle, and an employer’s potential ties to a right-wing survivalist movement in the mountains of New Hampshire, and English soon has more than enough to keep him busy, while Johnson has the beginnings of this engaging, gritty noir novel.

Unfortunately, even fine writing doesn’t help the novel as the plot begins to unravel, arriving at an ending that is bizarre even for an already strange book, and worse, ultimately disappointing. But this novel is an interesting artifact of sorts, a mid-point in Johnson’s career: although this was his fourth novel he was perhaps still transitioning from poetry to prose and had not yet published Jesus’ Son, the collection of short stories that appeared a year after “Resuscitation” that was so successful he has only recently crawled out from under its shadow nearly twenty years later. While Resuscitation of a Hanged Man might not be read as an early masterpiece, it is certainly an entertaining read, an odd stop on the road map of one of literature’s most celebrated writer’s career.
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