Sunday, October 28, 2007

Not a Beach Read

I've been saying for years--decades, now that I think about it, ever since I first read Angels back in the 80s sometime--that Denis Johnson would win a National Book Award some day. Now, at least, he's been nominated, and if the critical babble is any indication (and I admit, it often isn't) his new novel, Tree of Smoke, is the early favorite. I haven't read it yet, it's one of those formidable books that you don't want to start until you can give it your full attention, and from readers I've talked to it's a harrowing experience. Which is good! When a writer with the original vision and poetic skill of Denis Johnson takes on a subject like the Vietnam War, arguably the Big Enchilada for writers of his generation, you should not expect a light and breezy beach read.

More on Tree of Smoke soon...