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Resuscitation of a Hanged Man


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About the Author

Denis Johnson (1949-2017) was the author of The Name of the World, Seek, Jesus' Son and The Resusciation of a Hanged Man.


Johnson ( Angels ; Fiskadoro ) is a writer whose grace and style are frequently highlighted by the incongruity of his plot twists and character development. The hero of this novel, Leonard English, has come to Provincetown after an unsuccessful attempt at suicide by hanging. He finds employment as a radio disc jockey and part-time detective, falls in love with a lesbian, and stumbles along in a haze of tobacco and alcohol. Fascinated with his employer, who owns the radio station and runs the detective agency, and by the people who are the objects of his absurd surveillance activities, English gets involved in intrigues he doesn't understand. Driven beyond his professional commitment to search for a missing man, English is clearly propelled by a desperate need to locate himself, which he finally does in a funny but ultimately tragic final episode. Johnson's dark humor and crisp prose collude to keep the reader in a state of anxiety over the hero's psyche as he flounders toward resolution. Ambiguities, and not answers, lie at the heart of this book's questions about faith and hope. While it's easy to be amused by Johnson's deft narrative talents, readers will also be moved by this burdened, melancholy tale. (Feb.)

Leonard English, a failed suicide from Kansas, arrives in Provincetown, Massachusetts, in bleakest November to begin a new life as a private detective. The first thing he notices is that the women in town look remarkably mannish; then he realizes that they are men. The one real woman he meets is gay, but he pursues her anyway. A self-proclaimed ``knight of faith,'' English tries to embrace Catholicism, but the local priest doubts his sincerity. Cut off from God and convinced that a secret paramilitary group is on his trail, English arms himself for a violent last stand. Johnson, author of the noir classic Angels (1983), here rehabilitates the Kierkegaardian religious novel. At once hilariously funny and profoundly serious, Resuscitation of a Hanged Man is philosophical fiction of the first order and a minor masterpiece of New England local-color literature.-- Edward B. St. John, Loyola Law School Lib., Los Angeles

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