Denis Johnson : View Of An Author Essay, Research Paper
Denis Johnson s stories are not for everyone, but ifyou enjoy literature you can appreciate the sodalities of this writings. His style of writingis not completely original but aspects of it express their individuality. Basically all of hiswork deals with the bleak under tones of society, especially in the collection ofprogressive short stories in Jesus Son. In Jesus Son one of the short stories is titledDundun. In this short Johnson does an exceptional job of conveying personalities of thecharacters to you as soon as you begin reading. And the way that he expresses theirpersonalities sets the tone for the rest of the story. It s difficult to explain Johnson s’writing to someone who has never read one of his stories, but to give an example . . .When the narrator in Dundun (who s name you never learn, only the nick-name Fuckhead)first talks to the reader he says how he is hoping to get some opium from Dundun, but hewas out of luck. This intentionally gives the reader a low image of the narrator. Itsdoubtful that if it was intended for the reader to look up to the narrator that the first thingJohnson would mention is that he s a drug addict. After the narrator tells you about hisdrug use he goes on to describe how Dundun looked as he greeted him, from there on outthe desensitized nature of all of the characters in the novel begins to show. McInnes isn tfeeling too good today. I just shot him. You mean you killed him? I didn t meanto. Is he really dead? No. He s sitting down. If you look at thepunctuation in this conversation between the narrator and Dundun you notice that thereare no exclamation marks at all! If you were to read it as the author wrote it you wouldsound as if you had a so what attitude towards learning that a person you know hadbeen shot by one of your friends . Throughout the entire story there are details such asthat. You don t notice them all the first time you read it but they add up to give you asense of the detachment that these men feel in their lives. As you read further into thestory the rest of the characters don t care about McInnes any more than Dundun or thenarrator. Johnson expresses this a little more directly with the other men in the story. Aren t you taking him to the hospital or anything? Good idea, Beatle saidsarcastically. It seems as if Johnson is trying to create an image of the other men in thestory, which is worse than the image he created of the narrator. This is so that he can
make the narrator the most likable character in the story while still keeping the first imageof a do nothing drug addict. As the story progresses Johnson seems to try to raise youropinion of the main character (who is also the narrator) while attempting to keep the factthat he is a drug addict (and not that nice of a guy) present in your mind. Despite thenarrators apparent lack of care he is the only one who attempts to help McInnes, still, afterhe decides to take McInnes to the hospital in his car he asks Dundun if he has any opiumleft, and when Dundun says that he used it all his response was You shouldn t have usedit all up. . . I told him angrily. This is telling the reader almost sub consciously that Hemay be helping McInnes now that he is here, but. . . don t forget that the only reason hecame over was to get some drugs. Without a doubt Johnson likes to play around withthe images and personalities that his main characters portray. Immediately after hereminds you that the narrator should not be liked, even though he is the only one of themen who expresses concern for McInnes, Johnson puts a guilt trip on the reader bymaking you feel sorry for the narrator. But I was happy about this chanceto be of use. I wanted to be the one who saw it through and got McInnes to thedoctor without a wreck. People would talk about it, and I hoped I would beliked. From this point out Johnson really doesn t do anything else to influence your viewof the character until the end of the story, when, as they are driving to the doctor andMcInnes dies in the car. He s dead. All right. I know he s dead. Throw himout of the car. Damn right throw him out of the car, I said. I m not takinghim anywhere now. . . . I m glad he s dead, I told Dundun. He s the one whostarted everyone calling me Fuckhead. Dundun said, Don t let it get youdown. After all of the setup to make you wonder if the narrator perhaps is capable ofbeing the least bit decent he shoots your opinion of him into the gutter by (on top of otherthings) showing you that the only reason he was helping McInnes was so that he might beliked by other people and it may have changed the disliked image he had made forhimself. A lot of Johnson s work is a bit to dark for some people and the contentcan get old after a while. Still regardless of whether you like the story or not you have toappreciate the details that Johnson puts into his stories and amazing job he does ofconveying the emotions and mentalities of the characters.