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Already Dead [Hardcover]

Denis Johnson
3.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (13 customer reviews)

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Book Description

Aug 1997
‘In a class with those great, dark sweeping novels of madness and decay, Moby Dick and Dracula’ Patrick McGrath
--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.


Product details

  • Hardcover: 435 pages
  • Publisher: HarperCollins; First Edition edition (Aug 1997)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0060187379
  • ISBN-13: 978-0060187378
  • Product Dimensions: 3.2 x 16.5 x 24.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (13 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,507,103 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Book Description

‘In sustained breathtaking language of genuine poetic authority it depicts the collapse of the last American frontier. The characters inhabiting that frontier are strange, ghostly, complex figures – all believable, all recognizable – and it is Denis Johnson’s accomplishment here to have penetrated, understood and represented the extraordinary weirdness and richness of their minds. A grim tale of revenge snakes through it all, lending tension and momentum to this wildly beautiful story of a terminal landscape and its population of lost and drifting souls’ Patrick McGrath ‘Already Dead is California noir transcended by inspiration. It’s harrowing and hilarious, tough without trying to be, purely and beautifully written. There isn’t an American voice I love listening to more than Denis Johnson’s’ Michael Herr ‘Already Dead is a novel like no other, a wild ride through an imagination endlessly surprising and darkly profound in its apprehensions of our condition. From his fearsome inventions and singular voice, Johnson fashions religious art of the order of Brighton Rock and the paintings of Bosch and Breughel, yet shot through with revelations that startle us into laughter – even, though we hardly believe it’s happening, into something like hope. Already Dead is a novel to welcome and celebrate’ Tobias Wolff ‘Once Denis Johnson gets his hooks into you – it takes about two sentences – it’s pretty much impossible to stop reading’ New York Times Book Review --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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First Sentence
"Van Ness felt a gladness and wonder as he drove past the small isolated towns along U.S. 101 in Northern California, a certain interest, a yearning, because he sensed they were places a person could disappear into." Read the first page
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars amazing, beautifully written zen thriller 9 Jun 2000
By A Customer
Format:Paperback
another gem from the greatest living writer in the world. california redwood forests, new age mysticism, wannabe suicide rescued from water, rolling fog, comic hitmen, a witch, father-son torment plus johnson's trademark, simple, stark prose style which just rolls and riffs on one ghostly, poetic sentence after another. the structure is flawless, the switching of voices and use of flashback well executed...this novel has it all...quite brilliant.. -Nick Johnstone
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Tough Guys 16 Aug 1999
By A Customer
Format:Paperback
Not sure what Johnston was up to here. The similarities to Mailer's Tough Guys Don't Dance are huge: marijuana patches, seances, spirits, adultry, murder. Paying homage? Except the setting is the west coast instead of the east. The results are the same; is this the point? Really enjoyed it though. Amazing that he took more pages than Mailer!
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Not His Best Work 6 Nov 1998
By A Customer
Format:Hardcover
DJ is in Jesus Son at the top of his game, his prose angellic, his stories compelling and concise. Already Dead starts out strong but it is as if DJ has not yet mastered the long form. His sprawling plot twists into itself and the main characters like Fairchild and Van Ness become less interesting. Frankenstein is the only character who remains strong and original. Most people who have never read his other stuff might be impressed by his impressive turns of phrase, but unfortunatley Already Dead like Resuscitation of a Hanged Man turns out to be ill-concieved and at its best a beautiful mess. But I have faith DJ will turn out a simple novel similar to Jesus' Son, b/c poetic clarity and concise story telling is where his power lies.
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By Eileen Shaw TOP 1000 REVIEWER
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
There is so much to love about Denis Johnson's creative writing. And then again I found too many disappointments in this rambling, disjointed, overpopulated novel. When he is on form he is unbeatable, but this is a thickly distorted tale about a group of men and their women living in coastal Northern California on land owned by the main protagonist Nelson Fairchild, his son Nelson Fairchild Jr, and brother Billy, and Clarence Meadows, one among the few expecting to luck out when the marijuana stash in the mountains is gathered in.

To start with the strengths of the book, here is an excerpt from the moments when a dust-storm descends on the road: "Moving forward in first gear, Meadows decided he could travel on in this fashion indefinitely, groping ahead blind and strangled. Which was fine except it resembled too closely life in general.
"Again on his left he passed two cars stopped in a kind of embrace the huge intimacy of which he felt almost embarrassed to be witnessing. It didn't look too serious an accident. The cars owners stood out on the median, one man scrutinizing the wrinkled bumper of his vehicle, and the other craning, searching the little limit of visibility for... and then Meadows was past and the whole thing absorbed by an amber twilight, sucked up as by a sponge."

I love his creative work absolutely, and he uses his gifts indiscriminately, as in the following: "The door shut behind him and Meadows pondered the question as he stood alone before the squad of urinals, the sound of his piss jingling in a great and terrible and enchanted holy silence.
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5.0 out of 5 stars His risk-taking best 9 Dec 2008
Format:Paperback
This was the first Denis Johnson novel I read and, Tree of Smoke and all, for me it is still the best. It is hard to know where to start with a novel in which everything is done so beautifully. For one thing, DJ seems to have a particular affinity for the California coastline he describes. The landscape is always alive and changing, full of rolling mists and sudden losses of visibility. For another, the central characters - while they are enigmatic, to say the least - have a strange and magical clarity to them. But most of all, this is a novel that takes extraordinary risks and comes up with a solution to them all. There are so many disparate elements, bizarre motivations and mystical visions, as well as the ranges in register between the comic criminal types, the wonderfully flaky hippies and the beautiful drunk who stands at the heart of the book. The narrator rambles as well as Kerouac but somehow, at the same time, keeps it as tight as the Delillo of White Noise and The Names, although the closest direct comparison would probably be Pynchon's Vineland. The denouement is like an optimistic American riposte to Dostoyevsky - and the whole thing is full of subtle humour and a generosity of spirit.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Entertaining, Original 7 May 1999
By A Customer
Format:Paperback
One of the best books I have read in the last year or two. Six stars.
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By A Customer
Format:Paperback
Denis Johnsons Already Dead is a very not interesting read for me although it did have some exciting topics, from drugs, to witch craft and everything else that is evil in between. The only problem was that the murder,and violence didn't come about in a hair raising way but maybe for other people it might do a little more. Despite all that the characters are brought to you in a way that it seems like you have known them all your life. All in all though the book is alright not one of my favorites but definitly not the worst i've read.
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