The Largesse of the Sea Maiden

Pub Date:   |   Archive Date: 19 Mar 2018

Member Reviews

Denis Johnson (July 1, 1949 – May 24, 2017) was an American writer best known for his short story collection Jesus' Son (1992) and his novel Tree of Smoke (2007), which won the National Book Award for Fiction and was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize. Train Dreams, originally published as a story in The Paris Review in 2002, was published as a novella in 2011 and was a finalist for that year's Pulitzer Prize (a year in which the Pulitzer board made the rare decision not to award a prize for fiction).

Johnson passed away from liver cancer in May of list year. His final work, a book of short stories titled The Largesse of the Sea Maiden, is being published posthumously on January...

See Full Review
Was this review helpful?
I think I like, but don't love, Denis Johnson's writing. I thought Train Dreams was excellent; beautiful and spare. I've read Jesus' Son which seemed like it was written by a different person and full of manic energy and anxiety. I've never been motivated to check out Tree of Smoke, but was happy to check out Largesse of the Sea Maiden when the publisher offered it through Net Galley.

The stories weren't all gems but the strong ones were enough to lift the others. The title story is a long, wonderful look at human interaction. Another highlight was the last story, touching on Elvis and his place in American myth with a coincidental lightness that reminded me of Paul Auster.
Was this review helpful?

Denis Johnson holds an iconic place in contemporary American fiction and poetry. Winner of the National Book Award for his 2007 novel <i>Tree of Smoke</i>, Johnson’s 1992 short story collection <i>Jesus’ Son</i> remains a cult classic. Johnson died in May 2017. For a casual reader to assess Johnson’s <i>The Largesse of the Sea Maiden</i>, his posthumous short story collection, feels almost blasphemous.

<i>The Largesse of the Sea Maiden</i> contains five short stories. The title story, initially published in <i>The New Yorker</i> in 2014, reads like an immediate 21st century classic. Johnson portrays Bill Whitman, a man of 62...

See Full Review
Was this review helpful?

Wow. I don't know where to start. I guess at my beginning - I first heard about this book in late 2017 on a list of "Most Anticipated" books for 2018. I was not familiar with Denis Johnson, but I was intrigued by what I learned about him and his writing. By the time I had heard of Denis Johnson and wanted to discover more, he had died and I knew that this book of short stories would be published posthumously.

It was impossible to remove from my mind, the fact that this was a posthumous work. Death is very much a theme in this collection. What strikes me most is not that death appears in the stories, but the very ordinary-ness of how it comes up. The way that death can affect...

See Full Review
Was this review helpful?
I do not post reviews that are one star.  It doesn't seem fair to the author.
Was this review helpful?

I have been interested in Johnson for some time now and had placed this on my to-read goodreads shelf. I was given the opportunity to read it and made the decision to do based largely on the recommendation that I might like Johnson if I like Saunders.

It didn't pan out that way for me. While another reader might find parallels, I did not. I read two of the stories and *did* like Johnson's writing - enough to try him again in the future - but I'd accepted the ARC because I was in the mood for something like Saunders. At this time, I'm not finishing this one because it didn't meet that Saunders-like criteria for me, and also because I didn't empathize with the...

See Full Review
Was this review helpful?

The reason I wanted to read this collection is because of how much I enjoyed Denis Johnson’s Train Dreams . After finishing this collection of 5 stories, I initially rated it 3.5 stars feeling that some of the meaning had escaped me . But as I’m writing this and thinking more about it and the writing, I have to give it 4 stars. The writing is good and I liked three of the five stories so I’ll comment briefly on those .

My favorite is the first story titled as the book. Bill Whitman, an “ad man” gives us a series of vignettes, depicting events and people in his life reflecting on marriage, divorce, death , careers. I especially enjoyed the discussion with a circle of friends who discuss...

See Full Review
Was this review helpful?
A great collection of stories. Johnson has won another fan.
Was this review helpful?

Somehow Johnson was an author that I felt I should read but hadn't yet. That changed as not long after his death I learned there would be a collection of short stories, which from my knowledge is where his true strength was, was due to be published in January.
This collection of 5 stories deals largely with everyday life recreated by a master of language, my favorite being either "triumph over the grave" whose ending was very powerful all things considered, or the first story which the book got its name from.
I would definitely recommend it to anyone who is interested in the craft of writing or mortality as told by an excellent writer approaching the end of theirs.
Thank...

See Full Review
Was this review helpful?
Ostensibly better than his long form stuff that I've read. The stories are much more concise and carry much more weight than the long-winded and often scattered tomes I've read by him before. They tend to hit the table like a brick and read like one as well. I'd say yes to this collection.
Was this review helpful?
How sad that we have lost Denis Johnson, a true master of the short story. Anyone who wants to understand the strange alchemy of short-form fiction would be wise to read and re-read this book.
Was this review helpful?
Feel slightly harsh rating this one when I only read the titular story, but in all honesty I never expected Johnson to be for me. 

Either he's too smart and therefore goes over my head, or I just don't like his writing. I suspect it's a combination of both. 

In The Largesse of the Sea Maiden (the only story I completed), he compares 'a group of mentally handicapped adults' to 'cheap cinema zombies', and my reaction to this pretty much sums up how I feel about the idea of this author. Not much of a desire to read any further. 

It's clear he's a master of his craft to some, but I shan't be idolising him anytime soon.
Was this review helpful?