Dispatch from the Razor's Edge, the Blog of Michael Stephen Fuchs

Already Dead

Denis Johnson and The Largesse of the Sea Maiden

“Sometimes on these gray days the past just comes rolling armylike through the fields toward my naked heart.”

Denis Johnson died last year – the third of my three favourite American fiction writers to fall, after David Foster Wallace in 2008 and Thom Jones in 2016. I always described Johnson as “the best American fiction writer you've never heard of” – though that stopped being quite so true after he won the National Book Award for his mammoth Vietnam War romp, Tree of Smoke, in 2007. He was always, and will probably remain, most famous for his early book Jesus' Son, a weird little collection of linked stories adapted into a weird little film with Billy Crudup in the late 90s. But, for me, he will always be the Johnson of Already Dead – at least as weird, much bigger, plus thrilling, disturbing, pendulous with the implausible weight of its mysticism, existentialism, despair, and beauty. It is, and will probably always be, my second favourite novel of all time after Infinite Jest.

Anyway, he's gone now – from liver cancer, albeit after decades of substance abuse; following Jones – from a variety of health problems, most of them due to drinking, boxing, and obsessive exercise; and Wallace – “elimination of his own cartography,” also after decades of depression and substance abuse. (I'm honestly not sure this is an entirely safe or healthy line of work to be in.) But Johnson did leave us a last gift, a posthumous, second, and final collection of short fiction. Even in death, he can still write sentences like these. And I'm not sure anyone else can – or ever will.

It's fantastic how men and women come out from under these lifelong lies. Roll them off their backs and say phew, whoosh, long time carrying that mother. And the things they tell. The shit they've done. The blood they've swum through. The fool moves, the lucky chances, the wins and losses, all the burnt down houses, all the children wailing in the storms, the lucky hit at the last minute, or turning their back on the hearts they broke over and over, or getting busted on their birthday, or thinking they're dead then waking up with the sun all warm on their face, and hitching home cross-country in the rain just in time to say that one important thing before their father takes his dying breath, or getting there too late and saying it to his grave instead.

  denis johnson     david foster wallace     thom jones     short fiction  
about
close photo of Michael Stephen Fuchs

Fuchs is the author of the novels The Manuscript and Pandora's Sisters, both published worldwide by Macmillan in hardback, paperback and all e-book formats (and in translation); the D-Boys series of high-tech, high-concept, spec-ops military adventure novels – D-Boys, Counter-Assault, and Close Quarters Battle (coming in 2016); and is co-author, with Glynn James, of the bestselling Arisen series of special-operations military ZA novels. The second nicest thing anyone has ever said about his work was: "Fuchs seems to operate on the narrative principle of 'when in doubt put in a firefight'." (Kirkus Reviews, more here.)

Fuchs was born in New York; schooled in Virginia (UVa); and later emigrated to the San Francisco Bay Area, where he lived through the dot-com boom. Subsequently he decamped for an extended period of tramping before finally rocking up in London, where he now makes his home. He does a lot of travel blogging, most recently of some very  long  walks around the British Isles. He's been writing and developing for the web since 1994 and shows no particularly hopeful signs of stopping.

You can reach him on .

THE MANUSCRIPT by Michael Stephen Fuchs
PANDORA'S SISTERS by Michael Stephen Fuchs
DON'T SHOOT ME IN THE ASS, AND OTHER STORIES by Michael Stephen Fuchs
D-BOYS by Michael Stephen Fuchs
COUNTER-ASSAULT by Michael Stephen Fuchs
ARISEN, Book One - Fortress Britain, by Glynn James & Michael Stephen Fuchs
ARISEN, Book Two - Mogadishu of the Dead, by Glynn James & Michael Stephen Fuchs
ARISEN : Genesis, by Michael Stephen Fuchs
ARISEN Book Three - Three Parts Dead, by Glynn James & Michael Stephen Fuchs
ARISEN Book Four - Maximum Violence, by Glynn James & Michael Stephen Fuchs
ARISEN Book Five - EXODUS, by Glynn James & Michael Stephen Fuchs
ARISEN Book Six - The Horizon, by Glynn James & Michael Stephen Fuchs

ARISEN, Book Seven - Death of Empires, by Glynn James & Michael Stephen Fuchs
ARISEN, Book Eight - Empire of the Dead by Glynn James & Michael Stephen Fuchs
ARISEN : NEMESIS by Michael Stephen Fuchs
ARISEN, Book Nine - Cataclysm by Michael Stephen Fuchs
ARISEN, Book Ten - The Flood by Michael Stephen Fuchs
ARISEN, Book Eleven - Deathmatch by Michael Stephen Fuchs
ARISEN, Book Twelve - Carnage by Michael Stephen Fuchs
ARISEN, Book Thirteen - The Siege by Michael Stephen Fuchs
ARISEN, Book Fourteen - Endgame by Michael Stephen Fuchs
ARISEN : Fickisms
ARISEN : Odyssey
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