Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Future Alluded (Annotation G1-10/Goddard)

Denis Johnson’s casual storytelling in his short story collection Jesus’ Son is compelling enough, dream-like, nightmares with drug induced realities and conversation like retelling of events. Each of his retellings is complete enough and told in an almost present like real time detail. Other than drugs, deeds and wounds he gives the read background information on situations and characters. The background information does not necessarily move the plot of these stories along, but lends insight into a world very different from most. Johnson’s background information does not come before the event, but after. The use of allusion to future events is more entertaining, more shocking and in the case of Jesus’s Son more powerful.
“Two Men,” the second story in the collection is long night after the dance at the Veterans of Foreign Wars Hall. The narrator has relations with both men “I had forgotten my friends had come with me, but there they were. Once again I hatred the two of them.” (Johnson 15) As the three go about their business, the narrator gives us all the background information about their relationship in a future alluded way. “Later on one of them got hurt when we were burglarizing a pharmacy, and the other two of us dropped him bleeding in the back entrance of the hospital and he was arrested and all the bonds were dissolved. We bailed him out later, and still later all the charges against him were dropped, but we’d torn open our chests and shown our cowardly hearts, and you can never stay friends after something like that” (Johnson 16). In these, two sentences which have absolutely nothing to do with the situation of the story gives the reader a tremendous insight to what will become of these characters. Should the story go on longer, a reader might be inclined to eagerly await the night of the pharmacy burglary. The length of the story as well as what really is going on in “Two Men” the reader will never get to see the burglary or the dissolving of the bonds between these characters. This narrator in two sentences has set a feeling of doom and hopelessness for the future.
This “future alluded” technique is a craft devise Johnson uses in most stories. The two sentences in “Two Men” are potent, but a three-sentence passage in “Dundun” leaves the reader with more than the feeling of hopelessness. Dundun lives in a farmhouse and apparently has access to pharmaceutical opium, and on the day which the story takes place our narrator has gone to visit. The entire story takes place in a car transporting McInnes to the hospital after Dundun has shot him. Again, the “future alluded” passage gives tremendous insight into the Dundun character but has nothing to do with the plot or the action of the short story which bears his name. “Dundun tortured Jack Hotel at the lake outside of Denver. He did this to get information about a stolen item, a stereo belonging to Dundun’s girlfriend or perhaps to his sister. Later, Dundun beat a man almost to death with a tire iron right on the street in Austin, Texas, for which he’ll also someday have to answer, but now he is, I think, in the state prison in Colorado” (Johnson 51). If the reader could not tell Dundun was rascal enough in the events of the short story, the three-sentence interlude of his future certainly deflates any mystery.
The “future alluded” technique rounds out the events of the current action in the brief stories in Jesus’s Son.

Johnson, Denis. Jesus’ Son. New York: HarperCollins, 1993

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