Showing posts with label salinger. Show all posts
Showing posts with label salinger. Show all posts

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Denis Johnson vs. The Reclusive Writer


ALMOST exactly two years ago i was walking through Book Expo America in ny with the galley for denis johnson's then-new "tree of smoke." at least half a dozen people who saw his name on the oversized spine stopped me and asked, with some excitement, where they could get one. i've never had a similar experience with another writer. 

(the vietnam-set book, of course, went on to win the sometimes noirish, sometimes epic author a long overdue national book award.)

that palpable sense of anticipation -- and my sense that johnson would once again refuse to do press or appearances for the novel -- led me to write THIS piece on the phenomenon of "the reclusive writer." as someone who's loved salinger in high school and pynchon since college, it was a subject i'd been thinking about for years.

as luck would have it, FSG has just released the new johnson novel, "nobody move," which is an expanded version of his monthly installments for playboy last year. (the magazine is trying a similar trick with a james ellroy memoir right now.)

johnson's "nobody move," is a stripped down crime novel that resembles jim thompson or early tarantino.  “What the —? Where’s the literary?" johnson asked when he read part of it in greenwich village not long ago. "I thought I put something literary in my suitcase, but this is just cheap pulp fiction.” 

your humble correspondent, of course, is a lover of cheap pulp fiction. this -- approvingly reviewed here -- is neither at the level of thompson, hammett, etc. nor as good as even overlooked johnson novels like "already dead" or "rescusitation of a drowned man." but it's brisk and appealing in its own way: johnson certainly writes about lowlifes better than anyone i know right now.

as for recluses, i see salinger is still cranky today.

and did anybody remember that pynchon (that's him in the navy cap) wrote "likes pizza; dislikes hypocrites" in his hs yearbook? i cannot think of a better statement of purpose for any writer.