Literary Birthday – 1 July – Denis Johnson

Denis Johnson was born 1 July 1949 and died 24 May 2017.


  1. This life is but the childhood of our immortality.
  2. There’s a surface tension to the words. It is an illusion, and you can poke at it once, and then after that you’re just poking the ripples.
  3. I really enjoy writing novels. It’s like the ocean. You can just build a boat and take off.
  4. English words are like prisms. Empty, nothing inside, and still they make rainbows.
  5. If you write fiction, you’re by yourself. There are certain advantages to that in that you don’t have to explain anything to anybody. But when you get in with others who share the loneliness of the whole enterprise, you’re not lonely anymore.
  6. Everybody’s got a mean side. Just don’t feed it till it grows.
  7. You’re under pressure when you produce facts. You’re working with facts in journalism, but you’re under all kinds of formal constraints; there are expectations.
  8. We can’t always tell the whole story about ourselves.
  9. I think it’s silly for anyone to think you could write under the influence, but if they’d like to think that, I’d like to keep the legend alive. Maybe I was under the influence when I wrote Jesus’ Son and I just didn’t know it.
  10. In my writing, I want to be laid bare as a human being.

Denis Johnson was an American writer. He was best known for his short story collection, Jesus’ Son: Stories, and his novel, Tree of Smoke. He also wrote plays, poetry, journalism, and non-fiction.

by Amanda Patterson

Please click here for our Literary Birthday Calendar

Posted on: 30th June 2017