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The Largesse of the Sea Maiden

By: Denis Johnson

Publisher: Random House Publishing Group

Imprint: Random House

Format: Hardcover | ISBN: 9780812988635

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Twenty-five years after Jesus’ Son, a haunting new collection of short stories on aging, mortality, and transcendence, from National Book Award winner and two-time Pulitzer Prize finalist Denis Johnson   The Largesse of the Sea Maiden is the long-awaited new story collection from Denis Johnson. It follows the groundbreaking, highly acclaimed Jesus’ Son. Written in the same luminous prose, this collection finds Johnson in new territory, contemplating old age, mortality, the ghosts of the past, and the elusive and unexpected ways the mysteries of the universe assert themselves. Finished shortly before Johnson’s death in May 2017, this collection is the last word from a writer whose work will live on for many years to come.  Advance praise for The Largesse of the Sea Maiden“American literature suffered a serious loss with [Denis] Johnson’s death. These final stories underscore what we’ll miss. . . . Johnson is best known for his writing about hard-luck cases—alcoholics, thieves, world-weary soldiers. But this final collection ranges up and down the class ladder; for Johnson, a sense of mortality and a struggle to make sense of our lives knew no demographic boundaries.”—Kirkus Reviews (starred review)“An instant classic . . . A masterpiece of deep humanity and astonishing prose . . . It’s filled with Johnson's unparalleled ability to inject humor, profundity, and beauty—often all three—into the dark and the mundane alike. These characters have been pushed toward the edge; through their searches for meaning or clawing just to hold onto life, Johnson is able to articulate what it means to be alive, and to have hope.”—Publishers Weekly (starred review) Praise for Denis Johnson   “Denis Johnson was the best American writer of the past twenty-five years.”—New Republic   “He was the kind of writer who comes along once in a generation, if that often: a true original, in the same league as Melville and Whitman.”—n+1   “A true American artist . . . a revelator for this still new century.”—The New York Times   “The God I want to believe in has a voice and a sense of humor like Denis Johnson’s.”—Jonathan Franzen   “Nobody wrote with more brutality and mercy, more hilarity and grace. What a genius he was.”—Elizabeth McCracken   “Our most poetic American short-story writer since Hemingway.”—George Saunders   “Prose of amazing power and stylishness.”—Philip Roth   “When Denis Johnson is justly praised for his voice, I always think, just the one? He has an eerie symphony at his command.”—Karen Russell   “His prose tiptoes a tightrope between peace and calamity.”—Anthony Doerr “His lonely spaces and stunned lives have a hair-trigger fascination that is American to the core.”—Don DeLillo “Denis Johnson was and is, without question, significant and great.”—Michael Cunningham
[E]ven when his stories are problematic, Johnson's sentences carry great weight and beauty. The poet's ear is still there, sharp and poignant as ever.... Johnson assembled this collection over years, finishing it with the knowledge of his own death. In his final collection, Denis Johnson gives us beautiful, imperfect and wonderfully damaged men.
—Los Angeles Times
Here's what Bill Whitman, a 62-year-old advertising agent, says about his wife in the title story of Denis Johnson's collection “The Largesse of the Sea Maiden”: “She's petite, lithe, quite smart; short gray hair, no makeup. A good companion. At any moment — the very next second — she could be dead.” The swerve in that description hints at the powerful instability of Johnson's writing.
—Wall Street Journal
...a book that's not among [Johnson's] best. Two of five the stories — "The Starlight on Idaho" and "Strangler Bob" — are dreary, predictable tales of losers on "the edges of America," druggy thieves and killers whose stories we've heard before.... Johnson's final work is tightly confined. Women are barely mentioned. His characters are middle-aged white men, and their lives seldom rise above the mundane.... Within this limited world, Johnson's carefully styled language conveys despair, pain, hopelessness, irreparable loss and glimpses of resurrection.
—Dallas Morning News
Johnson's beautiful new book of stories, “The Largesse of the Sea Maiden,” is in certain respects a successor to “Jesus' Son.” Its characters, too, tend to be nonconformists driven to desperation, though the desperation here can be less overt and can assume various forms.... The word largesse isn't much used anymore. Perhaps it refers to a kind of profound and liberal bounteousness that isn't often to be observed in American life today. But it's a perfect word to describe Johnson's fiction, which overflows with creative energy, moving from one beauty to another with a mercurial, at times almost chaotic grace. Although his characters are often diminished and winnowed by their struggles with life, the narrative voice that describes their travails gives evidence of an imagination that is nearly boundless in its generosity and abundance.
—Chicago Tribune
The stories in “The Largesse of the Sea Maiden" are pleasantly baggy. We still get Johnson's signature compressed poetry in spots, but long stretches intentionally meander.... [T]he main thing linking “The Largesse of the Sea Maiden" to “Jesus's Son" is the sentences. Oh, the sentences!... Johnson offers visions and sadness and laughter. But it's the sentences — those adamantine, poetic sentences — that made him one of America's great and lasting writers. It's the sentences that live on.
—Boston Globe
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