Denis Johnson Inspires Me To…


18 March 2009

Denis Johnson is among the most talented writers alive.  He is one of those writers whose prose is so good, reading it often makes me want to quit.  But in a good way.

Since I’m currently writing a politician-character (Frederick of my novel-in-progress Sebastian & Frederick), I have my eye out for interesting political fiction.  Johnson’s character Mike Reed in The Name of the World once worked for a US Senator.  Another character asks Reed about the experience:

In D.C. I experienced what I once heard called ‘the temptation to be good.’ It’s a curse.  As soon as it hit me I got confused.  I still don’t know if, by quitting, I gave in to a bad temptation, or managed to resist a good one… There’s a perfect stillness at the center of Washington…It’s natural to talk about it in paradoxes…Everything in the world is going on there, but nothing’s happening.  It’s all essential, but it’s all completely pointless.  The motives are virtuous, but whatever you do just stinks. And then you retire with great praise.

I’m only about halfway through The Name of the World — a slim little book which is my warm-up to Tree of Smoke.  But already it has me threatening (to myself) to pack it in.


One Response to “Denis Johnson Inspires Me To…”

  1. superilldopefreshmoneykid Says:

    I read this book last week, loved it. But totally understand about Johnson’s writing being so good you want to quit. I’m feeling that while reading his novel Fiskadoro.

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