I read this with my mentor for our Advanced Fiction course, and it’s definitely far outside my wheelhouse in both content and structure. Johnson’s story follows an unnamed addict through a series of short snippets told out of order chronicling his cycle of addiction and rehabilitation.
Johnson’s choice to tell this story out of order worked very well, as we get to see all the different facets of the narrator regardless of where he is in his habits, or what he’s doing. All the narration is done in first person, giving us a difficult job of deciding whether or not what we’re being told is actual truth, perceived truth, or hallucination. In the end we’re not sure if we can trust him, although being in his head is an eye-opening look at how the mind of someone with substance abuse processes the world around them.
It’s difficult to ground yourself in this story, but I think that’s Johnson’s point, as our narrator never seems to be grounded himself. He flits through the stories, sometimes returning to the same places or people, sometimes becoming tangential, and other times losing the point entirely. The narrator does despicable things with an off-hand grace while simultaneously finding poignant beauty in the world that a normal person would overlook, and Johnson makes the particular choice to front-load the early stories with the narrator’s more violent nature, giving us one opinion, and then showing the narrator’s more subdued and introspective behaviors later.
In the end, the tales end towards the positive, although we never know if the narrator gets clean for good, but Johnson’s interesting prose and small moments blown big offer an interesting viewpoint into the world of drug addiction.
I can’t say I really enjoyed this one, but I didn’t dislike it either.
Bingo Square: Not My Wheelhouse