Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Things to Read, Drinks to Drink: Repentant Drinker Edition

Denis Johnson's first novel, Angels, has all of the grit and muscle of the author's later work, but like a lot of first novels, it's kind of all over the place. Down-and-outers, drug dealers and rapists, bank robbers and the disturbed-but-well-intentioned are featured here, and their plights are shocking. The first section of the book includes maybe the most graphic and disturbing scenes I've read in a long time: a rape that occurs after a man has drugged a woman (first with uppers and then with downers) and separated her from her children. As in a lot of Johnson's other work (notably in Jesus' Son), drugs and alcohol play a major role in the lives of these characters. A morality play this isn't, though perhaps an unintended result of reading the book was to seriously question the sense in drinking one's self silly. It was a sort of literary Scared Straight! for recreational drinkers, if you will. That's why the perfect pairing for this (or any other Johnson novel for that matter) is a nice, tall glass of refreshing H2O.

Denis Johnson's first novel: wonderful, frightening, difficult to put down.


Water: clean, delicious, free of alcohol, necessary to sustain life

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