The Saint I Ain’t
Stories from Sycamore Street
by Bobby Johnston
This title was previously available on NetGalley and is now archived.
Pub Date 09 Feb 2021 | Archive Date 05 Jun 2021
*Trigger Warnings:* Note there are scenes of child physical abuse, abuse within the church, the killing of animals, drug use, suicide, and gun violence within this text.
From Los Angeles-based film composer, multi-instrumentalist, and US Air Force vet Bobby Johnston comes The Saint I Ain’t (Fomite Press, 2/9/2021), a work of literary fiction, a coming of age elegy chronicled through short poignant stories (122 pages) set in 1970s Rust Belt America. Bobby's composer credits have landed him accolades in the original scores for directors Larry Clark and Laura Gabbert, documentaries “City of Gold” and “Bleed Out” (HBO) as well as features on Ira Glass' This American Life program on NPR.
Notwithstanding Johnston’s popular acclaim, this debut work, studded with non-conformist lyricism on piles of triggering* topics, is not for everybody. The hybrid combination of prose and personal narrative featuring sinners, saints, and saviors leans on tragic humor to transcend a subtext of fear and desperation, ultimately arriving at a position of bittersweet yet triumphant survival.
These stories are for and about rascals.
As Pulitzer-prize winning journalist and New York Times bestselling author, Héctor Tobar tells it:
Johnston plays so many different emotional notes in this collection: his stories are funny and haunting; tender and violent; realistic and psychedelic. The Saint I Ain’t is a moving and finely-crafted work of literary art.
Expect to laugh and whimper as you witness the phoenix emerge in Johnston’s The Saint I Ain’t.
A Note From the Publisher
"Bobby Johnston’s book is much more than a coming-of-age memoir: It’s an intimate portrait of a group of Rust Belt misfits and the community they’ve built, with all its wonders and secrets, its transcendent moments, and its horrors. Johnston plays so many different emotional notes in this collection: his stories are funny and haunting; tender and violent; realistic and psychedelic. The Saint I Ain’t is a moving and finely-crafted work of literary art." -- Héctor Tobar, Pulitzer Prize-winner and author of New York Times bestseller, Deep Down Dark
"Bobby Johnston has written what amounts to a novel length poem, both drenched in the bawdy and colorful language of a saloon storyteller as well as the sublime prose and story engine of the best coming of age novels. A treat to be devoured in one sitting, or better yet, read aloud over a glass or three of your favorite tipple. A wondrous and wonderful debut. -- Scott Frank, Oscar and Emmy nominated screenwriter/director of The Queen’s Gambit and author of the novel Shaker
In The Saint I Ain’t, writer and musician Bobby Johnston has given us an entire portfolio of snapshots from a vexatious childhood, as vivid as if they’d been taken an hour ago, still wet from the bath of memory. –- Jim Krusoe, author of The Sleep Garden.
“The Saint I Ain’t” is a lovely set of narrative poems about a catholic boy growing up somewhere in the wilds of the blue collar seventies. Filled both with peculiar, vivid details and a spare economy of language, it is a rare treat. Calling to mind both Denis Johnson's “Jesus’ Son” and Dylan Thomas’ “A Child’s Christmas in Wales” it is both sweet and dark with a wonderfully understated delivery that asks you to look into the abyss for yourself. -- PT Elliott, author of The Sociopath’s Guide to Getting Ahead
Average rating from 11 members
I enjoyed Bobby Johnston’s poetic voice in The Saint I Ain’t. It’s storytelling and experience captured in verse, brimming with insights and pop culture references. A pleasure to read.
In Bobby Johnston’s “The Saint I Ain’t”, I found a cathartic book of memories that are specific to a time before smartphones and social media. Rather than the colorfully produced fake memories our teens generate for themselves today, “The Saint I Ain’t” provides a glimpse of an unfiltered past with all of the scars and blemishes laid bare for the reader to see and feel. Having grown up in the same period, each vignette resonated with me, and I found many parallels to my own nearly forgotten experiences. Like so many good books, you’ll continue to think about it long after you turn the last page.