Anyway, there's a new Denis Johnson story in the New Yorker, which is kind of a big deal. Has he published any at all since Jesus' Son? I certainly can't remember any. This one's called "1966," and it's pretty good, and I'm sure everyone else has already posted about it. But Johnson has a new novel coming out in September, and maybe it's really an excerpt.
The thing is, there is a quality that a lot of excerpts have--a kind of artful lopsidedness, a feeling of unseen events unfolding--that can be very appealing. In fact, this quality is something I think maybe I should strive for in short stories--this sense that there are other things happening, somewhere, but that only their shadows fall across the page. Such pieces look like something glanced out the window of a speeding car, like the woman I saw today on State Street having a loud argument with two companions, exerting herself, sweating and red, over an umbrella-style stroller containing an uncomfortable-looking baby.
Anyway, if the Johnson piece is a short story, it's better than if it's a novel excerpt, because he achieved that feeling without the absent novel. It's still enjoyable as an excerpt, though. I like this bit very much:
From his waistband he pulled a blue-steel .45 automatic and aimed it at the man, and the man dropped like a puppet with its strings cut and disappeared. Right at that time Houston heard an explosion. He tried to understand where this noise had come from, to find some explanation for it other than that Kinney had just shot this man in the chest.
The crazy bum said, "That's pretty nifty, man. I think you won that conversation."
I love how the sights arrive before the sounds, the way the two are separate things, like an excerpt and its parent novel.