That – and no more, and it is everything to make you hear, to make you feel — it is, before all, to make you see. That — and no more, and it is everything

In one of the rare interviews he did, the fiction writer and poet Denis Johnson — who died on Wednesday at 67 — was asked about his craft, and he quoted these lines from Joseph Conrad: “My task which I am trying to achieve is, by the power of the written word to make you hear, to make you feel — it is, before all, to make you see. That — and no more, and it is everything.”

In his own novels and poems, Mr. Johnson fulfilled that task with extraordinary savagery and precision. He used his startling gift for language to create word pictures as detailed and visionary, and as varied, as paintings by Edward Hopper and Hieronymus Bosch, capturing the lives of outsiders — the lost, the dispossessed, the damned — with empathy and unsparing candor. Whether set in the bars and motels of small-town America, or the streets of wartime Saigon, his stories depict people living on the edge, addicted to drugs or adrenaline or fantasy, reeling from the idiocies and exigencies of modern life, and longing for salvation…

Mr. Johnson’s America, past or present, is uncannily resonant today. It’s a troubled land, staggering from wretched excess and aching losses, a country where dreams have often slipped into out-and-out delusions, and people hunger for deliverance, if only in the person of a half-baked messiah. Reason is in short supply here, and grifters and con men peddling conspiracy thinking and fake news abound; families are often fragmented or nonexistent; and primal, Darwinian urges have replaced the rule of law. And yet, and yet, amid the bewilderment and despair, there are lightning flashes of wonder and hope — glimpses of the possibility of redemption…

“What I write about,” Mr. Johnson once said, “is really the dilemma of living in a fallen world, and asking: ‘Why is it like this if there’s supposed to be a God?’”

~ Michiko Kakutani, excerpts from Denis Johnson’s Poetic Visions of a Fallen World


Find Denis Johnson’s Books on his Page at Amazon here.

Comments

  1. Christie says:

    I’ve not heard of him until now…sounds like he gave those living on the edge a voice….I assume he was a man with a great depth of empathy… “And yet, and yet, amid the bewilderment and despair, there are lightning flashes of wonder and hope — glimpses of the possibility of redemption”…there is always hope, faith and love…

    Liked by 1 person

  2. and people hunger for deliverance… Do they David? I hope so, because when we hunger for something good, there is hope. ❤
    Diana xo

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Reblogged this on Vistas.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. glimpses of the possibility of redemption – always offers hope

    Liked by 1 person

  5. I do so love that quote, It is everything I hope to do in my art.
    And I believe though there are the fallen … those that Stand, far outnumber them.
    and, I have faith that those that stand will prevail.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. A beautiful tribute. Thank you for sharing.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. I’ve never heard of this guy. Now he’s on My List. Thanks again, DK, for being the Light Bearer.

    Liked by 1 person

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