Review of Denis Johnson’s The Largesse of the Sea Maiden appearing in Riot Material.
“Picture the sibilant music of blood-red sand shifting from one bulbous half of the hourglass to the other. Or black-and-white film footage, bearing a scarred geography of squiggles and motes and hyphens, bleaching a darkened room in a ghostly light. Picture the slow and deliberate turning of calcified pages in a vinyl photo album, which provides evidence of the people you were, the friends you had, the family you loved, and hated and loved again. Any one of these notions, or those of a similar ilk, could serve as the tonal prelude, the lo-fi trailer, to Denis Johnson’s collection of stories, The Largesse of the Sea Maiden, completed just before his death.
Johnson, in the charged breadth of five stories, stalks through the boneyard, trafficking in muted nostalgia, curdled sorrow and mortal reckoning. His is the bleary and softly fuzzy world between somnambulism and wakefulness. As always, his lyrical takes on the lonely and broken, on the bits of blue valentine that get caught between our soul’s teeth, are nuanced and spot-on. You could imagine Johnson not only as a derelict urban cowboy spinning yarns round an ashcan fire, but also as a gothic storyteller with a twilight tint, a gallows comedian with flammable sensitivity, Edward Hopper meets Grand Guignol.”
Read the full review here.