I’ve recently started two new books of fiction that promise to be interesting; one of them is Denis Johnson’s collection of stories Jesus’ Son. This is one of those books I’ve been meaning to read for so long, that I can’t remember how I originally heard about it or who recommended it to me, but now that I’ve actually read the first two stories I’m realizing it’s nothing like I thought it would be. I didn’t have any concrete expectations, actually, but I still found myself surprised — the first two stories are dark.
The book is a collection of linked stories and is told in the first person by what appears to be the same narrator in each one. The stories tell about car wrecks, drugs, violence, anger, recklessness, death, desolation — and that’s only in two stories, both of which are very short.
But they are also beautifully written. There’s something mysterious and wonderful about them, although I’m not sure what — it includes a powerful use of language, but also something honest and bracing about the narrator’s voice.
I also began Lionel Shriver’s The Post-Birthday World; this book is quite long, at something over 500 pages, but I have a feeling that one of these days I’m going to have trouble putting it down and will ignore all my other books to devote all my time to it. I’m enjoying the story, the characters, and the narrative voice; I’m not that far into it, maybe 40 pages, but I’m already won over by the main character Irina, and I really want to know what happens to her. I’ve read that the narrative splits and explores two possible tracks based on a decision Irina makes — I’m very curious to see how I like this narrative experimentation, but my initial feeling is that I will like it very much.
And then I find myself in the delicious situation of having finished a nonfiction book, A Sentimental Murder, about which I’ll write more later, and so wanting to pick up another and getting to decide which one it will be. Should I read Adam Sisman’s book Boswell’s Presumptuous Task, on the writing of his great Life of Johnson? Should I read Edmund White’s biography of Proust? Robinson Jeffrey’s book on walking in the Romantic period? Calvin Trillin’s About Alice? Hmmm …