Poet, playwright and author Denis Johnson was born in Munich, West Germany in 1949 and was raised in Tokyo, Manila and Washington. He earned a masters’ degree from the University of Iowa and received many awards for his work, including a Lannan Fellowship in Fiction (1993), a Whiting Writer’s Award (1986), the Aga Khan Prize for Fiction from the Paris Review for Train Dreams, and most recently, the National Book Award for Fiction (2007).

Books

Tree of Smoke

nce upon a time there was a war . . . and a young American who thought of himself as the Quiet American and the Ugly American, and who wished to be neither, who wanted instead to be the Wise American, or the Good American, but who eventually came to witness himself as the Real American and finally as simply the Fucking American. That’s me. This is the story of Skip Sands—spy-in-training, engaged in Psychological Operations against the Vietcong—and the disasters that befall him thanks to his famous uncle, a war hero known in intelligence circles simply as the Colonel. This is also the story of the Houston brothers, Bill and James, young men who drift out of the Arizona desert into a war in which the line between disinformation and delusion has blurred away. In its vision of human folly, and its gritty, sympathetic portraits of men and women desperate for an end to their loneliness, whether in sex or death or by the grace of God, this is a story like nothing in our literature.Tree of Smoke is Denis Johnson’s first full-length novel in nine years, and his most gripping, beautiful, and powerful work to date.
Tree of Smoke is the 2007 National Book Award Winner for Fiction.

The Largesse of the Sea Maiden

The Largesse of the Sea Maiden is the long-awaited new story collection from Denis Johnson. It follows the groundbreaking, highly acclaimed Jesus’ Son. Written in the same luminous prose, this collection finds Johnson in new territory, contemplating old age, mortality, the ghosts of the past, and the elusive and unexpected ways the mysteries of the universe assert themselves. Finished shortly before Johnson’s death in May 2017, this collection is the last word from a writer whose work will live on for many years to come.

She wanted to eat my heart and be lost in the desert with what she’d done, she wanted to fall on her knees and give birth from it, she wanted to hurt me as only a child can be hurt by its mother.

— Denis Johnson, Jesus’ Son

I make the road. I draw the map. Nothing just happens to me…I’m the one happening.

— Denis Johnson, Already Dead

I knew every raindrop by its name.

— Denis Johnson, Jesus’ Son

There was a part of her she hadn’t yet allowed to be born because it was too beautiful for this place

— Denis Johnson, Jesus’ Son

She had nothing in this world but her two hands and her crazy love for Jesus, who seemed, for his part, never to have heard of her.

— Denis Johnson, Tree of Smoke

English words are like prisms. Empty, nothing inside, and still they make rainbows.

— Denis Johnson

Sometimes what I wouldn’t give to have us sitting in a bar again at 9:00 a.m. telling lies to one another, far from God.

— Denis Johnson, Jesus’ Son

And therefore I looked down into the great pity of a person’s life on this earth. I don’t mean that we all end up dead, that’s not the great pity. I mean that he couldn’t tell me what he was dreaming, and I couldn’t tell him what was real.

— Denis Johnson, Jesus’ Son

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