Denis Johnson’s novel, Tree of Smoke, was something of a literary event when it arrived last year; it won the National Book Award. (You can read my brief Men’s Vogue rave of the book here.) It wasn’t for everyone, especially in its more hallucinogenic borrowings from theater pioneer-madman Antonin Artaud (“a bad acid trip” one reviewer called the novel). But the 600-page-plus saga of the Vietnam War (which followed two male couples, a pair of working-class brothers and father-son spooks) managed to absorb the obvious echoes of Robert Stone, Graham Greene and Apocalypse Now and produce its own huge, resounding, haunting vibrations. For me, the novel, nine years in the making, was a breakthrough for Johnson from cult status, away from his Bukowski-esque streetlife losers, most memorably realized in his landmark short story collection, Jesus’ Son.
And now Johnson is coming to Dallas this weekend, courtesy of Project X Theatre.
It may seem odd that Johnson isn’t showing up at a bookstore or a major literary series — but then, next March, Project X is planning to open the Southwest premiere of Johnson’s new play, Psychos Never Dream, in a co-production with Kitchen Dog Theatre at the McKinney Avenue Contemporary. The play has already been read at the Dallas Theater Center three years ago as part of its Fresh Ink series and staged the year before in San Francisco by Campo Santo , where Johnson is writer-in-residence. Johnson himself, who lives in Idaho but recently taught at Texas State University, has given a staged reading of the play in San Marcos. Psychos has been described “as Gothically improbable and florid with blood as a Tarantino film.”
So ask him about it. The evening is promised to be casual and intimate. Translation: small but accessible.
The Project X Studio is in the Green Zone, 161 Riveredge Drive. Translation: it’s just south of Irving Boulevard and Oak Lawn Avenue, practically in the Trinity River Greenbelt. A $20 donation is requested. Call 214-421-2400 for a very unhelpful tape machine, but you get to listen to Project X founding producer Raphael Parry.
Photo of Denis Johnson from austin360.