Denis Johnson Analysis

Other Literary Forms

(Literary Essentials: Short Fiction Masterpieces)

Denis Johnson has published several volumes of poetry, the best known being “The Incognito Lounge” and Other Poems (1982), and a number of novels, such as Angels (1983) and Already Dead: A California Gothic (1997). He has also written book reviews, a screenplay, news copy, and essays (“School’s Out,” 1999).


(Literary Essentials: Short Fiction Masterpieces)

Denis Johnson has received a National Poetry Series Award and a Whiting Writers Award from the Whiting Foundation for “exceptionally promising emerging talent.” Jesus’ Son was ranked eighth in a list of the top one hundred short-story collections in modern fiction and has been made into a film by Evenstar Productions, directed by Alison Maclean.


(Great Authors of World Literature, Critical Edition)

Donnelly, Daria. “Flannery O’Connor in Reverse—Jesus’ Son.” Commonweal, August 13, 1993. This review alleges that Johnson’s Jesus’ Son owes much to Flannery O’Connor. Unlike similar allusions in the work of O’Connor, the spiritual allusions in Jesus’ Son rest on incertitude, rather than on faith. The passive spiritual hopefulness of Johnson’s fiction is reflected in the addicted narrator of Jesus’ Son. Through the nonlinear, drunken narrative, reality is rendered both comically and tragically. Donnelly thinks that much of the power of Jesus’ Son is in the complex rendering of the narrator, who exhibits both lust and indifference, as well a longing for love and God.

Gates, David. Newsweek, February 8, 1993, 67. Reviews Jesus’ Son positively, calling it “masterfully bleak.” Gates particularly stresses the narrative form, praising Johnson’s depiction of the narrator’s drugged, hallucinatory mind as he tells his stories. The surreal tone is exhilarating, according to Gates, for it reflects the irrational lives of the addicts. In the same way, the stories’ enigmatic forms are appropriate to the subject matter.

Kristulent, Steve. Review of Already Dead, by Denis Johnson. Oyster Boy Review 9 (May-August, 1998). This review deals not only with this particular novel but also with Johnson as a social critic. Kristulent compares Johnson to such European novelists as Milan Kundera and Robert Musil, who believe that every personal choice is...

(The entire section is 679 words.)