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Jesus' Son by Denis Johnson
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it was amazing
bookshelves: 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 fellow's twee reading of the line.

My take, if I'm allowed one, is that the line isn't some Adam's grand glorious reach towards the sparkling fingertip of a past Master, but rather the tossed-off remark of somebody (the narrator, Fuckhead) so storm-tossed and exhausted that, yeah, at this point in their journey, after so many hours standing in the rain, they have had enough. Enough. It's sarcasm. Like, for example, if you were stuck at an airport for half a day (or more in these airport times) you'd say, "Man, I should have my mail delivered here." So, if you're stuck in the downpour drunk and high and coming down and going up and veering sideways, yeah, you, too, would know every raindrop by its name. You're acquainted. You've become familiar.

I wouldn't feel the need to vent, but the article's author takes gleeful pains to paint Jesus' Son's main readership as "mid-twenties, white and male...revere On the Road and third-raters such as Charles Bukowski and William S. Burroughs...want to be fiction writers but have never read Henry James".

But despite the snarky attitude, "The Art of Reading Denis Johnson" is worth tracking down if you see an old pile of Poets and Writers magazines, or are spinning at the microfiche machine wondering what to call up on-screen with that beautiful antique, as the article's author makes some helpful parallels between Johnson's novel and the works of Hemingway and Flannery O'Connor.

Oh, and you'll learn more about good, clear writing from Bukowski than James. You will. You just will.

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Reading Progress

Finished Reading
August 26, 2007 – Shelved
May 2, 2016 – Shelved as: 1974-2002
May 2, 2016 – Shelved as: 2016

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