Friday, May 16, 2008

Book Review: Tree of Smoke

Tree of Smoke by Denis Johnson
I should begin with an admission. I don't care for war novels. Usually. It's not something I generally relate to or am even interested in even following. Johnson's Vietnam novel does things differently. There's half a dozen characters to follow, so pay attention. There's a fair amount of downtime, some general pointlessness, but when the chaos hits it really is chaos.
The story here is driving, though. It was the kind of thing that pulls you along. There's plenty of mystery and misery to keep things compelling among a slew of characters. It's really the writing here that makes things so strong. The language is solid, the dialogue is spot on. As dense and difficult as this novel could be, I enjoyed the reading all through its 600+ pages.
Now, I could complain some about the ending. I just finished it this afternoon, so maybe I should give it some time to sink in before I criticize, but the ending left me wanting. I'm guessing Johnson, maybe, had a little trouble finding a way out after writing such a long book. And how on earth would I be satisfied with any exit?
It is though, a great novel, and not like any of the Denis Johnson I've read before.

No comments:

Post a Comment