Short Stories, Irish literature, Classics, Modern Fiction, Contemporary Literary Fiction, The Japanese Novel, Post Colonial Asian Fiction, The Legacy of the Austro-Hungarian Empire and quality Historical Novels are Among my Interests

Thursday, August 21, 2014

The Largesse of the Sea Maiden by Denis Johnson (March 3, 2014 in The New Yorker)

I offer my great thanks to Max u for providing me a gift subscription to The New Yorker.  This gives me the opportunity to read and share with my readers my thoughts on works by some of the greatest contemporary short story writers in the world.  Whenever I can I will provide a link to the story.  

"Once in a while, I lie there as the television runs, and I read something wild and ancient from one of several collections of folktales I own. Apples that summon sea maidens, eggs that fulfill any wish, and pears that make people grow long noses that fall off again. Then sometimes I get up and don my robe and go out into our quiet neighborhood looking for a magic thread, a magic sword, a magic horse."

Denis Johnson has been mentioned by a number of the short story writers with whom I have done Q and A sessions as a short story writer whose work they greatly admire. I have learned to trust their advise.   I was happy to find a new story by Johnson in a recent issue of The New Yorker. 

"The Largesse of the Sea Maiden" started out a bit slow for me, seeming like kind of a combination of a Cheever and a Carver story about a hard drinking advertising copywriter, formerly of New York City now living in San Diego.  I was not really that taken with the story for the first few pages then as the story began to wander down the dark back streets of New York City, the narrator was there to pick up an award for one of his TV commercials at a ceremony, I came to understand why people like Johnson so much.  Much of the story is taken up with glimpses into the lives of people he meets.  

I will leave the main plot of the story untold so as not to spoil the experience of first time readers.  I for sure hope to read Jesus's Son one day.

You can read this story here:

Born in Munich on July 1, 1949, Denis Johnson was raised in Tokyo, Manila, and the suburbs outside of Washington, D.C. He studied with Raymond Carver while earning his MFA from the University of Iowa. While still enrolled, his first collection of poetry, The Man Among the Seals (Stone Wall Press, 1969), was published.

During the next few years, Johnson published several collections of poetry, including Inner Weather (Graywolf, 1976); The Incognito Lounge (Random House, 1982), selected by Mark Strand for The National Poetry Series in 1982; andThe Veil (Knopf, 1985); as well as four novels, including Angels (Knopf, 1983), which received the Sue Kauffman Prize for First Fiction from the Academy and Institute of Arts and Letters.

During this time he struggled with alcoholism and various other addictions. It was out of these experiences that he wrote his breakthrough volume of stories, Jesus’ Son (Harper Perennial, 1992), which was later adapted for the screen.

Please share your experience with Johnson with us.

Mel u

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