Lying Down in the Dirt: An Interview with Denis Johnson


Janet Steen | Longreads | February 2018 | 13 minutes (3,523 words)

In 2002, while I was the literary editor at Details magazine, I interviewed Denis Johnson on the occasion of the tenth anniversary of what is perhaps still his most famous book, Jesus’ Son. When he died last year, at the age of 67, I wondered if I could locate the cassette I’d recorded the interview on all those years ago.

Eventually it surfaced, on a dusty ancient Sony type-1 normal bias, and there, suddenly, was Denis — before books like Train Dreams and Tree of Smoke, and before his last recent posthumous book of stories The Largesse of the Sea Maiden, which, as it turns out, would be his only other collection of stories. On the recording he is soft-spoken and easy and open, but there is still a hint of the jangly “Fuckhead” he…

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