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Denis Johnson Poster

Biography

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Overview (3)

Born in Munich, Bavaria, Germany
Died in Gualala, California, USA  (liver cancer)
Birth NameDenis Hale Johnson

Mini Bio (1)

Denis Johnson, the acclaimed novelist, short story writer, poet and playwright, was born in Munich in the Federal Republic of Germany in 1949 and raised in Tokyo, Manila, and Washington, D.C., the son of a U.S. State Department employee. A chronicler of substance abusers living at the margins of society, Johnson himself began abusing alcohol at the age of 14, drinking rum while his family was stationed in the Philippines.

His substance abuse problem eventually graduated from alcohol to hard drugs, including heroin, the drug of choice by the anonymous protagonist of the story cycle that made Johnson's reputation, Jesus' Son (1999). Alcohol was a constant crutch until he finally managed to slough off his demons.

He published his first book of poetry, "The Man Among the Seals" when he was 20 years old. A second collection, "Inner Weather", followed in 1976. He earned his masters' degree at the University of Iowa, the oldest and arguably most prestigious writing program in the U.S. While at Iowa, he drank regularly with one of his teachers, Raymond Carver, a prodigious alcoholic himself. During his first marriage, Johnson's alcoholism resulted in a second hospitalization, and then a third.

He said one of the reasons he did not take control of his problem was that he was afraid it would adversely affect his creativity.

His first novel, "Angels" - a fictive chronicle of two down-and-out drifters - was published in 1983 and attracted the attention of the literary elite. His second novel, "Fiskadoro" (1985), also garnered glowing reviews. He published his third novel, "The Stars at Noon" in 1986. However, while his reputation was high among the cognoscenti, his sales to the general public were not. He began writing the stories about substance abuse that formed "Jesus Son" after going through a second divorce and being hit by a tax bill by the Internal Revenue Service.

For the basis of the short stories, he turned to some memories he'd written down during his druggie days, memories he had never considered turning into publishable prose. But with his back against the wall, he developed several of the vignettes and they were published by The New Yorker. The publication of the stories gave him not only confidence, but an income, and he struck a deal with Farrar, Straus & Giroux for a book of short stories in return for their paying off his IRS debt in lieu of an advance.

The result, published in 1992 (a year after his fourth novel, "Resuscitation of a Hanged Man"), was a modern classic that made Johnson a cult writer on par with Charles Bukowski and William S. Burroughs. The short stories have inspired a generation of younger writers, including Dave Eggers. He published the novels "Already Dead" and "The Name of the World" in 1997 and 2000, respectively.

Johnson, who once described himself as a "criminal hedonist" turned "citizen of life," describes himself as an unconventional Christian. His world view, as limned in his fiction, is leavened with humor.

Johnson currently is the Mitte Chair at Texas State University in San Marcos, Texas.

- IMDb Mini Biography By: Jon C. Hopwood

Spouse (3)

? (? - ?) ( divorced)
Cindy Lee Nash (? - 24 May 2017) ( his death) ( 1 child)
??? (? - ?) ( divorced) ( 2 children)

Trivia (1)

Won a National Book Award in 2007 for his novel "Tree of Smoke".

See also

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