Reviews in 200 Words

Train Dreams by Denis Johnson

In Fiction, Novella on October 17, 2011 at 6:51 pm

These chapters pass like visions – like the fevered hallucinations that infect a logging crew near the beginning of this spectacular, short burst of fiction. These are pieces of a puzzle, which, when completed shows the weathered and indelible portrait of one Robert Granier. Lumberjack. Freight hauler. Railroader just after the turn of the 20th century. He’s a western type with a weary casualness banked against the severity of the time. He’s simple. Honest. Curious about this world and the people in it. He observes and experiences, but rarely interferes. He lives. He’s solid while others evaporate. He’s a husband, a father and later a widow. He’s haunted by curses and she-wolves and the death that’s more constant a companion than the red dog that happens upon his acre one season. And we, in turn, are powerless against the haunting clarity of Johnson’s writing. Like deathbed daydreams we become – for just 120 pages – Grainier. We see his life as memories. Like puffs of smoke belching from a train stack. And we wish, as we all will likely do when the final pages turn on our own novella, that just one more log might be thrown upon the fire.

-Jay Cullis

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