Jesus' Son (short story collection)
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First edition cover, 1992
|Publisher||Farrar, Straus & Giroux|
|Publication date||December 1992|
|Preceded by||Resuscitation of a Hanged Man|
|Followed by||Already Dead: A California Gothic|
Jesus' Son is a collection of linked short stories by American author Denis Johnson.
The book takes its title from the Velvet Underground song "Heroin", and concerns the exploits of several addicts living in rural America, as they engage in drug use, petty crime and even murder. The stories are linked by shared locations (such as a dive bar in small-town Iowa) and repeated imagery. They are all narrated by troubled young men, who may in fact be a single troubled young man.
The book is famous for its seemingly chaotic narrative style, which mirrors the mental states of its narrators. "Car Crash While Hitchhiking" features a mentally-addled narrator who claims to have extra-sensory perception, which allows him to experience in the present a deadly car crash that won't happen until much later in the narrative. Despite his foreknowledge, he enters the car he claims to know will inevitably crash. "Emergency" is narrated from the perspective of a hospital janitor driving around under the influence of hallucinogens as he accidentally kills several baby rabbits and helps to save a man who's been stabbed in the eye by his wife. The book ends on a more hopeful note as the final narrator enters a recovery program and begins to hold down a stable job.
In 1999, the book was adapted into a film of the same name starring Billy Crudup, Samantha Morton, Denis Leary, Jack Black, Dennis Hopper and Holly Hunter. It was directed by Alison Maclean and was received well by critics. It represents a rare attempt at turning a collection of short stories into a single, feature-length film. Johnson appears in the film briefly, playing the role of a man stabbed in the eye by his wife.
List of short stories included in Jesus' Son
- "Car Crash While Hitchhiking"
- "Two Men"
- "Out on Bail"
- "Dirty Wedding"
- "The Other Man"
- "Happy Hour"
- "Steady Hands at Seattle General"
- "Beverly Home"