Denis Johnson’s Jesus’ Son

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I recently finished Denis Johnson’s collection of short stories called Jesus’ Son. The book follows a drug-addled character known as “Fuckhead” through several misadventures that are likely to produce a range of emotions from empathy to disgust, humor to anger. I met Denis Johnson back in June at the University of Tampa MFA summer residency where he appeared for a readings, question-and-answer, and had lunch with a small group of us star struck writing students. I seriously doubt he’d remember me, but I remember him as a polite and intense man with no time for bullshit. I liked him.

The overall effect of Jesus’ Son on me, once I got over being reminded that a layer of our society exists in a constant state of hopelessness fueled by a circular cycle of alcoholism, hard drugs, and bad decisions, was to ask myself what it is in human nature that nudges some of us toward self-destruction. I think these stories illustrate, like old-time fairy tales that teach children to obey their elders, what can happen when we value escapism more than establishing and maintaining meaningful relationships. To the question of how people can descend into a state that allows them to commit terrible acts without remorse, the stories in Jesus’ Son may provide some insight.
Denis Johnson may not have intended any sort of instruction when writing these stories, and perhaps they are as pointless as they seem, the ramblings of wasted losers clinging to the underbelly of society. I prefer to assign some sort of purpose to stories like these to counteract the realistic horror I find in them, and if readers are looking for a modern set of cautionary tales, Jesus’ Son fits the bill.

 

Cat Rambo’s “Events at Fort Plenitude”

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Cat Rambo’s “Events at Fort Plenitude”

This Friday, December 7th, (a day that lives in infamy) Tales to Terrify will air my narration of Cat Rambo’s story, “Events at Fort Plenitude.” I love Ms. Rambo’s writing, and I hope she’ll approve of my interpretation of her story.

If you’re looking for some creepy fantasy-horror to listen to while your eyes and/or hands are busy, check it out. Let me know what you think. More importantly, leave a comment on the Tales to Terrify site. If you really like what you find there, consider buying their first anthology to help support the ‘cast.

I started listening to Starship Sofa way back in its infancy, and remain a loyal fan of Tony C. Smith’s Hugo Award-winning work there. If you’re a science fiction fan and you’re not listening, you’re seriously missing out. There’s more nerdy goodness there than you can shake a gaffi stick at.