Review – Jesus’s Son

Jesus’s Son – Denis Johnson

Final Thoughts: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️


Jesus’s Son is a 1992 collection of eleven short stories written by Denis Johnson. The stories are set in the ’70s, and linked, if only vaguely. The brief stories are bound in a thematic bubble of addiction and drug use.

I read the adorable Picador pocket edition of Johnson’s short stories in the span of an afternoon. At just around 160 pages, the collection is a snack, easily swallowed whole. However, I don’t encourage gulping the stories down in one swift bite.

The book immediately gets high marks from me for claiming a name out of a Velvet Underground song.

Johnson’s stories are all equally gritty, compelling us with the dark edge that frequently accompanies stories of addiction. Johnson’s voicing is laced with the kind of abstract, poetic tone that often finds the most success in short story form. My favorite part about these stories is that they are boldly dark, but they don’t venture into offensive territory. The book has sharp edges, but Johnson doesn’t resort to shock value, profanity for the sake of profanity, or outrageous behavior to prove his points. I think that Johnson proves his strength of narration in providing us with surprising stories and a chaotic narrators without resorting to intense negativity. Coming down from my experience with Charles Bukowski’s Post Office, I have a deep appreciation for Johnson’s graceful grit.

If I have any one qualm with my experience with Jesus’s Son, it’s probably my own fault. I read this book so incredibly quickly, that now, after about three weeks of hindsight, I can barely remember the plots. I had to look up a summary just to write the review. For this reason, I firmly believe that Johnson’s stories, though temptingly Brief, should be savored slowly. Let their weight sink into you; don’t take a deep dive into them. Sit with this book longer than you’d instinctively do otherwise. On the bright side, it won’t be an intimidating reread!

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