A catalog of my comments and thoughts on books, reading, and writing as well as anything I come across that seems interesting. I used to sell other people's words at an independent bookstore but now I hope to get by on selling my own.
Denis Johnson made his name as a poet, a fact which shed a lot of light on my reading here. The book is beautifully written. Really, the writing is just wonderful and carries you through a lot of other elements that just did not quite come together for me. His descriptions are beautiful and hyper-focused, they bring out a few features that he wanted to bring out, at the expense of a more complete picture in the scenes, but this is forgivable because of how well they are done.
The plot and characters I found kind of problematic. Jamie and Bill Houston meet on a bus and she changes her plans to spend some time with him in Pittsburgh. Then she seeks him in Chicago. Then they are with the rest of the Houston family in Arizona. The story of Bill and Jamie is pretty limited. One never gets to understand where an affinity developed, I supose in the unseen adventures in Pittsburgh, but as everything that happens in this book is horrible, it is hard to understand why she followed him to Chicago. There, another horrible experience could be said to drive her into his arms, but that ends this part so we can go to Phoenix where, though they are ostensibly still together, their two stories diverge. Jamie gets into drugs, Bill into crime, and they just happen to do it within earshot of each other...and then not.
I try not to sound like a traditionalist, I enjoy experimentation and it is hard to disparage this novel when I so enjoyed the writing. Yet, for me, it just became wearying. Every time I picked the book up I felt I was in for a series of horrifying events. It may be that these are just hang-ups I should get over and enjoy the writing, but I can't help but thing that there was a simpler way from point A to point B. That a couple hard turns could have smoothed out and made it that much better.
But, as always, I might be missing something, and in any case I did like it, if only for his wonderful style.