The Largesse of the Sea Maiden
by Denis Johnson | Adult Fiction, 2018
Reviewed by Ann Doubleday, Adult Services

Johnson’s posthumously published collection of short stories speaks to the deepest mysteries of life and death. The five stories are narrated by a diverse range of characters who address the reader in a strikingly intimate manner. Bill is an ad man returning to New York to receive an award for an advertisement he wrote many years ago. He ponders his life both past and present, trying to balance the mundane with the search for that elusive “magic thread” – a path to those moments of transcendent beauty dancing in and out of our daily lives. Cass, a drug addict in rehab, writes letters to loved ones as he struggles for his life through the haze of hallucinations and the hope for redemption. The inmate “Dink” contemplates a prophesy that he will ultimately commit murder. A writer remembers the ghostly visitations of a friend’s final days while he cares for another dying friend. Kevin, a writing teacher, reminisces about a brilliant student obsessed with proving an Elvis conspiracy theory. These beautifully written stories are linked by themes of death, transcendence, struggle, the unknowable, and at least a hint of magic.