Summary and book reviews of The Largesse of the Sea Maiden by Denis Johnson

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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  • Published:
    Jan 2018, 224 pages

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Book Reviewed by:
Jamie Samson

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About this Book

Book Summary

Twenty-five years after Jesus' Son, a haunting new collection of short stories on aging, mortality, and transcendence, from National Book Award winner and two-time Pulitzer Prize finalist Denis Johnson

The Largesse of the Sea Maiden is the long-awaited new story collection from Denis Johnson. It follows the groundbreaking, highly acclaimed Jesus' Son. Written in the same luminous prose, this collection finds Johnson in new territory, contemplating old age, mortality, the ghosts of the past, and the elusive and unexpected ways the mysteries of the universe assert themselves. Finished shortly before Johnson's death in May 2017, this collection is the last word from a writer whose work will live on for many years to come.

(Opening pages of the title story)

Silences

After dinner, nobody went home right away. I think we'd enjoyed the meal so much we hoped Elaine would serve us the whole thing all over again. These were people we've gotten to know a little from Elaine's volunteer work—nobody from my work, nobody from the ad agency. We sat around in the living room describing the loudest sounds we'd ever heard. One said it was his wife's voice when she told him she didn't love him anymore and wanted a divorce. Another recalled the pounding of his heart when he suffered a coronary. Tia Jones had become a grandmother at the age of thirty-seven and hoped never again to hear anything so loud as her granddaughter crying in her sixteen-year-old daughter's arms. Her husband Ralph said it hurt his ears whenever his brother opened his mouth in public, because his brother had Tourette syndrome and erupted with remarks like "I masturbate! Your penis smells good!" in front ...

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Reviews

BookBrowse Review

BookBrowse

By the time of his death in 2017, Denis Johnson had long been acknowledged as a contemporary master of the short story, worthy of comparison to latter-day luminaries such as Alice Munro, George Saunders, and Lydia Davis. From his 1992 breakthrough collection, Jesus' Son, to his late-career novels, Tree of Smoke and Train Dreams, he'd succeeded in enchanting — and disturbing — a whole generation of book-lovers with his bleak, beautiful tales of life at the ragged edges of America. Reading The Largesse of the Sea Maiden, it is hard not to suspect that Johnson's stories will continue to haunt many more generations to come.   (Reviewed by Jamie Samson).

Full Review Members Only (533 words).

Media Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Starred Review. An instant classic...A masterpiece of deep humanity and astonishing prose...Johnson is able to articulate what it means to be alive, and to have hope.

Booklist
Starred Review. Johnson will be remembered and revered as an incisive storyteller fluent in the comedy and tragedy of human confusion and the transcendence of compassion.

Kirkus Reviews
Johnson is best known for his writing about hard-luck cases—alcoholics, thieves, world-weary soldiers. But this final collection ranges up and down the class ladder; for Johnson, a sense of mortality and a struggle to make sense of our lives knew no demographic boundaries

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Beyond the Book

Literary Inmates

"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, ...

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