Name Of The World

A few days ago I found one of those faceless grumpy men selling books on Bedford Avenue and picked up a hardback copy of Denis Johnson’s The Name of The World. I’d read it years ago while traveling, left it on some bus somewhere, and didn’t remember much of anything about it except for one line that has stayed with me since, and which was the sole reason I handed the man four dollars.

Today’s flight back to St. Louis gave me time to read in search of that line. I didn’t find it until page 87, and by that point I figured what the hell and finished the whole thing. Along the way I realized that I had gotten this book all kinds of wrong. Because, though bizarre and puzzling in terms of structure and movement and scope, The Name of The World is full of amazing thoughts and lines and magic moments of grace and horror and wonder.

Here is the line plus the setup line before it:

Her blouse was sleeveless and her armpits stained with wide blotches of sweat. I made a note to myself — I had to get to a chemist someday, and ask if sweat is the same substance as tears.

A true magician, Denis Johnson. Best four dollars I ever spent.

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