Literary Inmates: Background information when reading The Largesse of the Sea Maiden

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The Largesse of the Sea Maiden

Stories

by Denis Johnson

The Largesse of the Sea Maiden by Denis Johnson X
The Largesse of the Sea Maiden by Denis Johnson
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     Not Yet Rated
  • First Published:
    Jan 2018, 224 pages
    Paperback:
    Jan 8, 2019, 224 pages

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Book Reviewed by:
Jamie Samson

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About this Book

Literary Inmates

This article relates to The Largesse of the Sea Maiden

"Strangler Bob", one of the more memorable stories in The Largesse of the Sea Maiden, is set entirely within the squalid confines of an American prison. As far as we know, Johnson himself never spent any time in jail; the story is a testament to the power of imagination shorn of experience.

Throughout history though, there have been many great authors who, due to bad behavior or bad luck, haven't had to rely solely on their imaginations in order to describe prison life. Some of these figures, like Fyodor Dostoyevsky, Oscar Wilde, and Voltaire, were victims of backward social conditions or repressive regimes (what we would now call "prisoners of conscience"). Others, such as the Marquis de Sade, and his twentieth-century successor, William S. Burroughs, were genuine rascals and criminals (Sade was incarcerated for procuring young prostitutes, while Burroughs drunkenly shot and killed his wife).

Most of us are rightly ambivalent about the latter kind of literary inmate, but the ...

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