AngelsAngels by Denis Johnson

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Denis Johnson is a master of hauntingly beautiful imagery in the midst of plain-out fucked up situations involving under-privileged characters who have little to hold onto. Someone said in a review that this book is magic realism: I disagree; it's the imagery of the high, the drunk, the desperate, and the dying. This book is so carefully crafted that although it's only two hundred pages long, it feels like an epic, taking the reader on a drunken Greyhound bus ride through Ohio and Pennsylvania, a brutal tour of Chicago, and a crime-ridden and drug-filled spree in Phoenix. Johnson is able to zoom in, like a camera, intensely on a moment, as we do sometimes in life, where suddenly we stop and notice the most minute and beautiful thing: the sulfur snap, lighting, and burning of a match before lighting a cigarette, for example. Everything goes into close focus, time slows, and then, suddenly, everything speeds up again.

This book reminds me of the film Requiem for a Dream, filled with madness, sadness, and sometimes a tender love, an understanding of the beautiful, and a mourning of what could have been but never really was.

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