Pearl Anniversary for a Dirty Wedding: Denis Johnson’s “Jesus’ Son” at 30

Cover of "Jesus' Son"

It’s been three decades since a slim volume of 11 interconnected stories, cobbled together for a few thousand dollars to keep the IRS at bay, changed the landscape of American literature. Denis Johnson’s Jesus’ Son is one of those books you read in a single sitting, again and again.  It’s a repeat offender, in the best sense of the term. A professor at Brooklyn College handed me my first copy in the late 1990’s—he said only this: “Read this. I’ll say no more.”  I read it often, and I’ve been handing it to students, friends, and family members ever since. As we reach its pearl anniversary, I can’t help but connect this book with Matthew 7:6 and not “casting your pearls before pigs, lest they trample them underfoot, and turn again and rend you.” Such is the wisdom of this small, epiphanic book about a drifter, druggie, drunk, and ne’er do well as he slowly finds himself working out of drug addiction and acedia and toward a hard-earned, sober redemption and reengagement with the world.

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Vol.1 Brooklyn’s Best of 2018: Fiction

The fiction we admired most in 2018 ran the proverbial gamut from thought-provoking surrealism to evocative realism. Some illuminated the present day or recent past, while others ventured into much more uncharted territory. Some took us to unimaginable psyches; others showcased how ordinary people dealt with the extraordinary. Here’s a look at ten of our favorite works of fiction this year.

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