Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Tree of Smoke :: Denis Johnson

A story about... well, the Vietnam War. But not Tim O'Brien's war. Johnson's war is aimless, desolate, lost and brings to my mind a dustiness. I can't explain it, but it does.

This book was HARD to get through. Not everything resonated with me, and parts lagged or didn't make sense. I was impatient at times, and had to really push in order to get through the whole thing. But despite that fact, there are a lot of redeeming passages and it's ultimately very heartbreaking -- not in any obvious way, but quietly, sadly, like a person overlooked in real life. It's awkward and beautiful at points, and the end works for me, even if it never ties together the way I'd like it to. But then again, maybe that's the point. Things like war don't tie together. Sometimes there just isn't any meaning, and to look for it is fooling ourselves.

So while I'd agree with a lot of the criticism about how the book hung together, when Johnson is at the top of his game, he's a master at language. If you have the patience to get through it, you'll be rewarded... but only if you're still paying attention.

1 comment:

Trée said...

Just started reading this one two days ago. Denis is a unique master of the language and if one likes a well turned simile or metaphor, something a little unique, I think any of his works will delight. If you want rock solid plot with everything neat and tidy, he will probably disappoint. Pick your poison I suppose. :-D