>The Missing Link Project: Jesus’ Son by Denis Johnson

>I first read Jesus’s Son in 2000 (it first appeared in 1992) and my reaction at the time was simple: I hated it. What stayed with me over the years was the excessive drug use and the violence. I understand that these things are real and it all seemed authentic enough, but it just didn’t appeal to me. Whenever I told people that I didn’t like the book, they gave me strange looks, as if I was out of my mind. Earlier in The Missing Link Project some people reacted the same way to my negative comments about Donald Ray Pollock’s Knockemstiff, which I also didn’t like, for pretty much the same reason.

So, I’ve just re-read Jesus’ Son and while I can see the skill in the stories–in a way that I probably didn’t appreciate nine years ago (before I was paying attention to writing)–I still don’t like the book. I’m allowed, right? I just can’t relate. I’m sorry.

I do, however, like the Point of View here, and the way the book stands out as an example of the linked story sub-genre. Unlike most such collections, these stories aren’t unified by setting, unless you count the narrator’s drug-addled brain as the setting, in which case it’s exactly like other examples. But the geographical setting bounces around the country, even while the narrator–presumably the same person–stays the same. I also found the final story in the collection far more hopeful than I remember (I wonder if I didn’t give up before I got to the last paragraph?), which almost redeems the narrator and the book. Even though I still don’t love it, I’m glad I gave the book another chance.

Next up: The Things They Carried by Tim O’Brien

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