Jesus’ Son: Stories by Denis Johnson, Will Patton (Narrator)

Listened to Jesus’ Son: Stories by Denis Johnson on the commute and enjoyed it for most part despite the dark and disturbing nature of the stories.

Though I am not sure “enjoyed” is the right word. It kept me entertained? Hmm, let’s say it was an interesting way to spend time in the car. To be honest, I think I really just enjoyed the way Will Patton voiced the character.

I haven’t read anything by Johnson so don’t really have anything to compare it to or to put it in context. But at times, Patton’s voice and Johnson’s prose gave the feeling that you were listening to a real person describing their life. In this way it drew you into both the language and the process of imagining the life that would lay behind it.

But this happened only is spots rather than throughout. I am not sure I would have had the patience without the audio format.

Publishers Weekly captures some of the problems:

Some disturbing moments do recall Johnson at his inventive best … But for the most part the stories are neurasthenic, as though Johnson hopes the shock value of characters fatally overdosing in the presence of lovers and friends will substitute for creativity and hard work from him. Even the dialogue for the most part lacks Johnson’s usual energy.

The review also captures the nature of the book:

In “Work,” while “salvaging” copper wire from a flooded house to fund their habits, the narrator and an acquaintance stop to watch the nearly unfathomable sight of a beautiful, naked woman paragliding up the river. Later the narrator learns that the house once belonged to his down-and-out accomplice and that the woman is his estranged wife. “As nearly as I could tell, I’d wandered into some sort of dream that Wayne was having about his wife, and his house,” he reasons. Such is the experience for the reader.


Kevin Holtsberry
I work in communications and public affairs. I try to squeeze in as much reading as I can while still spending time with my wife and two kids (and cheering on the Pittsburgh Steelers and Michigan Wolverines during football season).

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