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Step Away from the DeLillo 

Wednesday, Oct 17 2007
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In the New York Times, Jim Lewis calls Denis Johnson's new novel Tree of Smoke "something like a masterpiece" and "the product of an extraordinary writer in full stride." He also he calls that writer a "master" and a "revelator for this still new century." (Lewis starts his review with "Good morning and please listen to me," so granted he's a wee bit excitable.) All of this comes as no surprise. Ever since Johnson's mysterioso novel Already Dead, set in oddball Gualala to our north, sent us on an exploratory road trip (we found the golden-domed Tibetan monastery!), we've been waiting for the fat novel to send him over the top. Lewis goes on to ponder what an elusive figure Johnson is, which strikes us as odd. Last time we checked, he was in a theater seat at Intersection for the Arts. Since 2000, he's been scribbling plays for its resident theater company, Campo Santo, and this weekend's Des Moines is his eighth. It promises to be quite a bash. Taking place in an undisclosed location, it's billed as a "warehouse party" where "partygoers will see emerge his raucous new play." It's also billed as an "exploration of the damaged American soul — its historical contradictions, ambiguities, inequities, and lost stories," territory that Johnson has camped out in for decades.

Now the bad news: Given that Johnson is currently the American writer of note (and one who is not doing a book tour), Des Moines is an insanely hot ticket, much too hot for those late to the party. But his next play with Campo Santo, Everything Has Been Arranged, runs Dec. 6-8. Maybe see about tickets now.
Fri., Oct. 19, 7 p.m.; Sat., Oct. 20, 7 p.m., 2007

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Michael Leaverton

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