One of my favorite writers passed away on May 24, 2017 at age 67. I was re-reading his work and came across this review/appreciation that I had written a couple of years ago.
Denis Johnson writes with a unique, confident, and oddly compelling voice in a style that does not fit “normal” criteria for structure, characterization, or narrative plot. Yet, it doesn’t seem to matter.
The eleven linked stories in Jesus’ Son are all narrated by an unnamed protagonist, a young man who lives a grim life of addiction and alcoholism, but who is also somehow funny and likable (to the reader, anyway). He is the ultimate flawed character, and his only redeeming quality throughout these stories is that he knows he’s flawed. Sometimes he tries to remedy this; often he just doesn’t. The writing has a hallucinatory quality to it, a steady stream of the subconscious that is so dead-on and piercing in its observations of surroundings and of the people the protagonist bumps up against. Continue reading