Speed Reads Book Club: "Train Dreams" by Denis Johnson
A book club focused on shorter works designed to be read in a sitting or two.
This month's book club pick is Train Dreams by Denis Johnson.
A New York Times Notable Book
An Esquire Best Book of 2011
A New Yorker Favorite Book of 2011
A Los Angeles Times Favorite Book of 2011
Denis Johnson's Train Dreams is an epic in miniature, one of his most evocative and poignant fictions. It is the story of Robert Grainier, a day laborer in the American West at the start of the twentieth century---an ordinary man in extraordinary times. Buffeted by the loss of his family, Grainer struggles to make sense of this strange new world. As his story unfolds, we witness both his shocking personal defeats and the radical changes that transform America in his lifetime. Suffused with the history and landscapes of the American West, this novella by the National Book Award--winning author of Tree of Smoke captures the disappearance of a distinctly American way of life.
"[A] severely lovely tale . . . The visionary, miraculous element in Johnson's deceptively tough realism makes beautiful appearances in this book. The hard, declarative sentences keep their powder dry for pages at a time, and then suddenly flare into lyricism; the natural world of the American West is examined, logged, and frequently transfigured. I started reading 'Train Dreams' with hoarded suspicion, and gradually gave it all away, in admiration of the story's unaffected tact and honesty . . ." --James Wood, The New Yorker
"Johnson beautifully conveys what he calls 'the steadying loneliness' of most of Grainier's life, the ordinary adventures of a simple man whose people are, we hear, 'the hard people of the northwestern mountains, ' and toward the end even convinces us of his character's inquisitive and perhaps even deeper nature than we might first have imagined. Grainier 'lived more than eighty years, well into the 1960s, ' we learn. Most people who read this beautifully made word-engraving on the page will find him living on." --Alan Cheuse, NPR
Denis Johnson was the author of nine novels, one novella, two books of short stories, five collections of poetry, two collections of plays, and one book of reportage. Among other honors, his novel Tree of Smoke won the 2007 National Book Award and was a finalist for the 2007 Pulitzer Prize, and Train Dreams was a finalist for the 2012 Pulitzer Prize.
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