"Man acts as though he were the shaper and master of language, while in fact language remains the master of man." -- Heidegger
Does anyone remember when Denis Johnson came to the Workshop?
Racking my brain, but I don't even remember which year it was, or which season. I remember it was in the basement, that's about it!
The reading was for his nonfiction book, and the party was at Seth's house. So it was first year for us.All I remember of the party is the sad fact that everyone was too scared to talk to him. He sat on the couch talking to a friend who had traveled with him, sort of looking around at the rest of us chatting in our little clusters around the house. I believe he slipped out relatively early and no one noticed until he was long gone. The party was also poorly attended for some reason, considering it was DJ.
I raced through a galley of Tree of Smoke a couple of months ago. It's hands down the best new novel I've read in years -- maybe since The Known World -- brilliant, beautiful, and moving. In fact, as soon as Lila finishes, I'm going to read it again. Incidentally, the NYTBR seems to have given DJ a healthy boost, as TOS is currently #7 at Amazon.
Oh, right! I'd forgotten about the party entirely. That was embarrassing. For us, I mean. We should have talked to him! I remember it being like that during the basement session Grendel referred to, as well. Everyone was too intimidated to ask him a question during the Q&A. Ah, well. We'll all make it up to him now by reading TOS.
He came my second year -- are we talking about the same time? I don't remember whose house the party was at but it was adjacent to college green park. *I* talked to him.Convo reprise:weather weather...etc.DJ: But really, you've got to hate winter.Me: Yeah...yeah! It's like...in winter, right? The earth is like...like this big black...uh....like orb thing...but then...[trails off]DJ: [Already talking to someone else]
Yep, I think that's the conversation most of us were afraid to have. Hence the let's-ignore-him-and-feed-off-his-vibe reaction.
I talked to him -- he was feeling very fragile about his writing, and I said, "But Denis, you're writing's good -- it's really good." And he said, "Oh, you don't know how much that means coming from you." And I said, "I do know." And then he said, "But what should I do next?" And I said, "What about Vietnam and spies and stuff -- people love that crap -- and maybe Ben Affleck can be in the movie, or that shorter buddy of his." And he said, "Great idea! I'll call it Ho Ho Ho Chi Minh -- It will consist of intersecting stories of Santa Claus and the War." "How about Tree of Smoke -- it's from Exodus." "Wow -- you're really smart -- and handsome." "I am indeed." "And you've always been such a big help." "Yeah, Moses' Mailman was a terrible title -- I'm glad I talked you out of that one." "I owe everything to you." "I know." "Have another drink." "I shouldn't." "Oh come on, we're not like these other people here." "It's getting late." "It's early." "Well, maybe just a little." "You're shivering." "I'm cold." And so on, and so forth -- pretty much my normal conversation with any author that visited.
This is the funniest thing I've read in a while. Oh, archives!
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