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Already Dead: A California Gothic

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 27, 2000

    Edgy Fiction

    Some fiction tries to find the universals of what we know, find a path through which to say 'we are none of us alone' and touch the heart. Other fiction seeks out and walks along the edge of the collective human experience. This book falls in that second category. In this book, Johnson is clearly trying to apprehend and distill a particular human (or not so human) understanding of what is real and what is deadly. I'm not sure he succeeds, but the clarity of his wordsmithing and and the poignancy of his characters is achingly evocative to me. Stanislavsky (major theater teacher) used to talk about 'dead theater,' the form of theater in which form overrules communication and kills the heart. From this book, I'd say Johnson thinks there is such a thing as 'dead life' as well, a way of living that is so preoccupied with getting through the day and its challenges that whatever is real and vital about life has no chance of being lived. Johnson describes this by creating characters who live passionless extremes by rote, characters who ache for that vitality but are too afraid to go look for it, and characters who have died and been replaced in their living by some animus of animosity. Parts of the book are chilling in describing these forms of dead. A few other parts are just as successful in describing the sacred, the joyous, the touchingly beautiful. And his characters are complex and well-developed, many of them with a language and a voice all their own. While the wording is well-crafted, the characters multilayered and the thematic content sufficiently transparent without being overbearing, the plot wanders and dodges. Because of this the book fails, in the end, to cohere.

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    Posted February 28, 2010

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    Posted December 7, 2009

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    Posted December 18, 2008

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