Three separate writers use the word
"tremendous" in their reviews of Denis Johnson's
Tree of Smoke, and the word is fitting in all of
its meanings: extraordinarily great, powerful,
immense, and terrifying. Most beloved for his skinny
collection of stories, Jesus' Son, Johnson's
latest tome piles his trademark themes of
desperation, outsiders, grim fates and lazy quests
for redemption into a 614-page monster of a book
about that monster of a war, Vietnam. Forget the
particulars or historical details. This is a book
about what war does to its denizens, and
specifically, what a senseless, glory-less war does
to their souls.
Johnson's prose is powerful, physical and muscular, and draws well lit, sharply defined, and meticulously detailed ...
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Fanaticism consists in redoubling your effort when you have forgotten your aim
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