The Largesse of the Sea Maiden by Denis Johnson, review by Shelly Walston
The stories in Denis Johnson's The Largesse of the Sea Maiden are stark and profound; the emotions he explores run the gamut: from life to death, from love to loss, and from salvation and despair. The collection is full to the brim with the light and the dark of humanity.
Some stories are more like vignettes - short, succinct, to the point - while others develop into longer tellings. Both types - the vignettes and the longer stories - follow characters who seem at their most bleak. But Johnson does more than let them wallow; he explores the depth of the bleakness, the weight of it, and the heft it takes to get out. His opening vignette "Silences" - from the titular story - sets the tone for the collection: a story that is nearly comical in an uncomfortable way that seeks the light despite the darkness.
As an added bonus, the Libro.fm audio book is read by an array of gifted voices: Nick Offerman, Michael Shannon, Dermot Mulroney, Will Patton, and Liev Schreiber. Each reader finds the character, develops him, and delves into the grit and grist that brings him to life - even as they contemplate death, loss, and despair.
I've never read Johnson's short stories before, and now that I've read these, I'm going back into his archives to find more gems.