Sunday, July 24, 2005

end of the world Rasta style

Denis Johnson is a wonderful writer, master of the novel, the short story, and all manner of poetry. Jesus' Son is one of the most perfect books of dark, realistic short stories I've ever read. Infinity Lounge is an original slim tome of poetry now sadly out of print. He's an old hippy who's suffer many of the drug and political agonies of old hippiedom. I remember him in Iowa City as a political anti-war in Viet Nam guy who wrote so well he made everyone jealous. He wrote poetry then. Gorgeous stuff.
Fiskadoro(1985) is my favorite of his fiction. It is an end of the world book that takes place on Key West(called Twicetown). The bombs have fallen only shreds of civilization remain amongst the Rasta talking locals. It has something of the magical feel of Riddly Walker. The sense of a pasttoo far gone to retrieve but of a culture consumed with curiosity for the very different world that went before. Cuba is thought to be the cradle of civilization and people catch wisps of music from Cuban Radio on calm nights. They never see any Cubans though and never think to mount an expedition to Havana. People lost in a dream of a distant civilization. No one seems to read this book any more. It would be wise for college kids to read to help them understand the Viet Nam era as there are many, many Viet Nam references. Fiskadoro is the callow young seeker Mr. Cheung is his mentor. Mr Cheung's mother who escaped Viet Nam in the last, terrible days of America's departure from Saigon does not speak, but Johnson allows us into her memory bank and this provides the novel's ballast. Amazingly enough it is still in print. Give it a try.

Mister Nouse

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