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Tree of Smoke
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About the Author

Denis Johnson is the author of several novels, including Already Dead (published by Picador), Resuscitation of a Hanged Man, Fiskadoro, The Stars at Noon, Angels and The Name of the World, as well as a short story writer and poet. He lives in northern Idaho.

Reviews

Patton is a fine character actor. His performances in A Mighty Heart and Inventing the Abbotts made a notable presence in otherwise unremarkable roles. His reading of Johnson's baroque Vietnam novel, though, will probably not feature highly in future editions of his resume. Johnson's tale of shadowy soldiers and spooks irrevocably changed by the unending war in Southeast Asia is rendered by Patton in a drill sergeant's muscular whisper, complete with carefully rendered impressions of characters-American, Filipino and Vietnamese-some of which verge on parody. The effort and thought put into his reading is clear, but the results are underwhelming, bordering on unpleasant. Twenty-three hours of so mannered a performance begins to grate on the nerves, distracting from Johnson's otherwise engrossing novel. Simultaneous release with the FSG hardcover (Reviews, June 28). (Sept.) Copyright 2007 Reed Business Information.

This major Vietnam novel depicts the era's distinctive psychedelic brutality, the ineptitude of the U.S. military effort, and the otherworldly theater of the "intelligence" operations surrounding the politics of the war. Skip Sands is starting out in the hazy world of the CIA under the tutelage of his uncle, Col. F.X. Sands, a veteran of World War II and many years of mercenary covert actions. They are involved in an assassination in the Philippines, where the novel begins in November 1963, and then move on to Vietnam. There, the Colonel sets up an undercover situation for Skip. Whether the Colonel is a rogue agent gone over the edge is open to question. Down at the bottom of the command chain are the brothers Houston, Bill Jr. and James, members of the alcoholic, sociopathic underclass of rural and Bible Belt America last seen in Johnson's Angels. It is these characters with whom the author seems truly in touch. Moving chronologically, the novel proceeds into the late Sixties, when the war seems not so much lost as running down on the political, military, and cultural energy powering it earlier. Ugly and fascinating, with many shattering scenes, this long work may seem familiar to fans of Apocalypse Now but is nevertheless gripping. Recommended for all fiction collections. [See Prepub Alert, LJ 5/15/07.]-Jim Coan, SUNY Coll. at Oneonta Copyright 2007 Reed Business Information.

"Denis Johnson has delivered his masterpiece." --Chris Offutt "The God I want to believe in has a voice and a sense of humor like Denis Johnson's." --Jonathan Franzen
"Prose of amazing power and stylishness." --Philip Roth "Once Johnson gets his hooks into you--it takes about two sentences--it's . . . pretty much impossible to stop reading." --David Gates, "The New York Times Book Review ""An amazingly talented writer . . . We can hear Twain in his biting irony, Whitman in his erotic excess, not a little of Dashiell Hammett too in the hard sentences he throws back at his gouged, wounded world." --Vince Passaro, "Newsday"
"I can't be sure that there's been a better American novel published in the past ten years. It is a masterpiece."--"The Miami Herald
""It will . . . get inside your head like the war it is describing--mystifying, horrifying, mesmerizing. [Johnson] has written a book that by the end wraps around you as tightly as a snake."--"The Washington Post Book World
""Damn impressive, a layered, rich, sweaty accomplishment of massive proportions."--"Entertainment Weekly
"""Tree of Smoke" is a Vietnam war novel almost without peer, in which 'the abyss is alive.' Johnson . . . has written the best work of his career, an existential tour de force."--"The Plain Dealer" (Cleveland)
"Good morning and please listen to me: Denis Johnson is a true American artist, and "Tree of Smoke "is a tremendous book.""--The New York Times Book Review "(cover review)
"Johnson's power of empathy is a beam that radiates and cannot be modulated. It's helplessly total. . . . Johnson has written his "War and Peace,""--"Harper's Magazine
""Gorgeous prose . . . a heartbreaking portrait of war."--"Outside
"""Tree of Smoke "is a brilliant pillar of fire. . . . Haunting, tragic, and humane."--"Men's Vogue
""Opens a window onto a world of mystery, war, and intrigue whose importance in the (usually) unwritten history of our republic can't be denied."--"Chicago Tribune
""An epic, wrenching new novel . . . delivers a beautifully layered, insightful, and visceral montage of stories."--"The Seattle Times"
"Denis Johnson is a true American artist, and "Tree of Smoke "is a tremendous book.""--The New York Times Book Review
""The God I want to believe in has a voice and a sense of humor like Denis Johnson's."--Jonathan Franzen"" "I can't be sure that there's been a better American novel published in the past ten years. It is a masterpiece."--"The Miami Herald
""It will . . . get inside your head like the war it is describing--mystifying, horrifying, mesmerizing. [Johnson] has written a book that by the end wraps around you as tightly as a snake."--"The Washington Post Book World
"""Tree of Smoke" is a masterpiece of language and depth."--"San Francisco Chronicle
""Johnson has captured the zeitgeist of American experience as surely as Twain, Hemingway, or Ellison."--"New York Post"
"Opens a window onto a world of mystery, war, and intrigue whose importance in the (usually) unwritten history of our republic can't be denied."--"Chicago Tribune"" """Johnson has written his "War and Peace,""--"Harper's Magazine""

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