Beyond the Book: Background information when reading Tree of Smoke

Summary |  Excerpt |  Reviews |  Beyond the Book |  Readalikes |  Genres & Themes |  Author Bio

Tree of Smoke

A Novel

by Denis Johnson

Tree of Smoke by Denis Johnson
  • Critics' Opinion:

    Readers' Opinion:

  • First Published:
    Sep 2007, 624 pages
    Paperback:
    Sep 2008, 624 pages

  • Rate this book


Book Reviewed by:
Lucia Silva

Buy This Book

About this Book

Beyond the Book

Print Review

Most of Denis Johnson's fans discovered him through his 1992 collection of short fiction, Jesus' Son. His trademark down & dirty style, paired with slim, grim stories of drug-addled 70's drifters drew critical acclaim, a movie deal, and a cult following. But before all that came four novels and at least two collections of poetry, the first published in 1969 while Johnson was studying with Raymond Carver at The University of Iowa. The pervasive themes of Denis Johnson's work are all there in his poems: loneliness, otherness, and the possibility of grace in a world gone bad. But here, the power of his writing is stripped bare, revealing an immediate tenderness that softens the edges of his fiction.

Raymond Carver once said, "Denis Johnson's poems are driven by a ravening desire to make sense out of the life lived. The subject matter is harrowingly convincing, is nothing less than a close examination of the darker side of human conduct. Why do we act this way? Johnson asks. How should we act?"

Our Sadness

There's a sadness about looking back when you get to the end:
a sadness that waits at the end of the street,
a cigarette that glows with the glow of sadness
and a cop in a yellow raincoat who says It's late,
it's late, it's sadness.

And it's a sadness what they've done to the women I loved:
they turned Julie into her own mother, and Ruthe--
and Ruthe I understand has been turned
into a sadness...

And when it comes time
for all of humanity to witness what it's done
and every television is trained on the first people to see God and
they say
Houston,
we have ignition,
they won't have ignition.

They'll have a music of wet streets
and lonely bars where piano notes
follow themselves into a forest of pity and are lost.
They'll have sadness.
They'll have
sadness, sadness, sadness.

- Denis Johnson, from The Throne of the Third Heaven of the Nations Millennium General Assembly: Poems Collected and New by Denis Johnson

Interesting Links

Article by Lucia Silva

This article was originally published in September 2007, and has been updated for the September 2008 paperback release. Click here to go to this issue.

This article is available to non-members for a limited time. You can also read these articles for free. For full access become a member today.

Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" backstories
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $10 for 3 months or $35 for a year
  • More about membership!

One-Month Free Membership

Discover your next great read here

Join Today!

Editor's Choice


Book Discussion
Book Jacket
The One-in-a-Million Boy
by Monica Wood

About the book
Join the discussion!

First Impressions

  • Book Jacket

    The Stars Are Fire
    by Anita Shreve

    An exquisitely suspenseful novel about an extraordinary young woman tested by a catastrophic event.
    Reader Reviews

  • Book Jacket

    No One Is Coming to Save Us
    by Stephanie Powell Watts

    One of Entertainment Weekly, Nylon and Elle's most anticipated books of 2017.
    Reader Reviews

Who Said...

Don't join the book burners...

Click Here to find out who said this, as well as discovering other famous literary quotes!

Word Play

Solve this clue:

W's M T Store?

and be entered to win..

Books that     
entertain,
     engage

 & enlighten

Visitors can view some of BookBrowse for free. Full access is for members only.

Join Today!

Your guide toexceptional          books

BookBrowse seeks out and recommends books that we believe to be best in class. Books that will whisk you to faraway places and times, that will expand your mind and challenge you -- the kinds of books you just can't wait to tell your friends about.

 
Modal popup -