December 7, 2014

A World Unnamed: Dennis Johnson's "The Name of the World"

Spoiler alert: we never learn the name of the world.

More seriously, though, I want to like Dennis Johnson.  When I went to graduate school in the mid-aughts, the writers loved him because he put together beautiful sentences. And this was before he got his bonafides because he won a Pulitizer
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This is the third book of his I read, after Jesus’ Son and Nobody Move. Of the three, I think this is my least favorite. I say that because I think I am at a place in my life where if I am reading fiction, I want something more plotty. I guess I just want something to happen.  Not much happens here.

Plot rundown: Guy who has lost his wife and young daughter, and who was a history teacher who ended up working for a politician navigates a year in his life. This year sees the unexpected end of a teaching assignment and an unconsummated relationship with a graduate student. He eventually moves away from the setting, leaving in the night.

And, uh, that’s it. He does put together some beautiful sentences, but I wasn’t looking for some meditation on the human condition.