Thursday, October 25, 2007
76. "Tree of Smoke" - Denis Johnson
*Sidenote* - the "D" on my library copy was a bit covered up, so my youngest son thought it read, "Penis Johnson." Which of course brought up that johnson is another word for penis, how this would be repetitive, and just how damn funny this is for young pre-teen boys.
Multiple characters carry this story, the first full-length novel by Johnson in almost 10 years. Sectioned year by year, right before the Vietnam War through its declining months, it follows the characters like a benevolent god as they muck through physical and psychological hell.
Skip Sands seems to be the nucleus, though his duties are lame and his purpose unclear. Eventually, I didn't care about his story and was relieved by the others who filled his place, whose more interesting lives were full of vivacious vitality only Johnson can wrangle into words.
Until page 480-ish. Then, I slipped down the rope until it turned to dental floss and snapped. The plot wouldn't hold me. Even the most beautifully assembled sentences tasted like the grit after a dental cleaning. So close.
3.5 out of 5.0 Vodka Paralyzers.