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Denis Johnson

My first creative writing workshop class was First Person Fiction. I remember truly loving it, and it was in that class that I first read Denis Johnson. His book of short stories, Jesus’ Son, was the first collection in which I studied the technique of the writing instead of the work’s literary agenda. I still read those stories from time to time and remember how excited I was to read the collection for class. Last year when I was in the memoir workshop class, I wrote about my best friend and his heroin addiction. I was living the memoir as I wrote it because I didn’t know how else to deal with its reality. One day I opened Jesus’ Son for inspiration while working on my memoir; I figured there could be no better author to read than one who had been an addict himself. The page I flipped to was the story of a young man who happened to be an addict leaving the hospital for a bar; it sounded too familiar. It was one of those goosebump moments that stuck with me. From the beginning I felt a connection with Johnson’s work even if I didn’t personally understand it. Johnson has a talent for using words to make his particular lifestyle of alcohol abuse, women, and narcotics sound beautiful, which is why I admire his work.

Here’s a link to the NYTimes review of Jesus’ Son.

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