Seek: Reports from the Edges of America and Beyond

Seek: Reports from the Edges of America and Beyond

Part political disquisition, part travel journal, part self-exploration, Seek is a collection of essays and articles in which Denis Johnson essentially takes on the world. And not an obliging, easygoing world either; but rather one in which horror and beauty exist in such proximity that they might well be interchangeable. Where violence and poverty and moral transgression...

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Title:Seek: Reports from the Edges of America and Beyond
Author:Denis Johnson
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Edition Language:English

Seek: Reports from the Edges of America and Beyond Reviews

  • ds white

    now I am not as big a denis johnson fan as people would believe me to be. I think on occasion he throws out some amazing sentences and even better paragraphs, but his novels as a whole suffer. I loved Seek: Reports from the Edges of America and Beyond, it was his element. Like I say about Sam Lipsyte, he should stay with the short story for his novels lack. Saunders, lutz they know thier barriers and do not try do be something bigger than they are, but in their form they are as big as a rising m

    now I am not as big a denis johnson fan as people would believe me to be. I think on occasion he throws out some amazing sentences and even better paragraphs, but his novels as a whole suffer. I loved Seek: Reports from the Edges of America and Beyond, it was his element. Like I say about Sam Lipsyte, he should stay with the short story for his novels lack. Saunders, lutz they know thier barriers and do not try do be something bigger than they are, but in their form they are as big as a rising moon on a autumn night in the deserts of Arizona. Denis, go back to the short story you are so good at it.

  • Kilburn Adam

    I've read quite a bit of Denis Johnson's fiction. I especially liked Tree of Smoke, and Jesus' Son. But this book of journalism and essays, is something completely different.

    He visits war torn countries like Irag, Afghanistan, Liberia, and Somalia.

    His trip to Afghanistan was way before 9/11. When The Taliban were in power. He just crossed the Khyber Pass, and headed to Kabul. I was quite impressed with this trip. Unlike Don McCullin who tried to enter Afghanistan during the soviet invasion. Hi

    I've read quite a bit of Denis Johnson's fiction. I especially liked Tree of Smoke, and Jesus' Son. But this book of journalism and essays, is something completely different.

    He visits war torn countries like Irag, Afghanistan, Liberia, and Somalia.

    His trip to Afghanistan was way before 9/11. When The Taliban were in power. He just crossed the Khyber Pass, and headed to Kabul. I was quite impressed with this trip. Unlike Don McCullin who tried to enter Afghanistan during the soviet invasion. His trip was successful.

    Some of the more harrowing articles. Took place in Somalia and Liberia. Where countless macabre atrocities are described. I won't spoil the book and go into detail, but these articles left me somewhat disturbed and uneasy.

    It's not all death and war though. He is a self described beatnik. And one essay, is about a trip to the rainbow gathering. Where he describes a psychedelic experience with psilocybin mushrooms.

    Despite the uncomfortable subject matter, of some of the articles. This is definitely a book that's worth reading. And fully deserves the 5 stars that I've given it.

  • Josh

    "The villagers sit close together, everyone touching someone else, steeped in a contentment that seems, at this moment, perpetual. It occurs to the writer that the secret way to happiness is in knowing a lot of dead people." pg 150

    "Billeh's been lent a Kalashnikov, sand-blasted smooth and dull like those of the other two, each with a thirty-shot clip that may or may not be full, they refuse to say, and also Lion carries a sort of rocket, or grenade, that screws down onto the muzzle of his Kalash

    "The villagers sit close together, everyone touching someone else, steeped in a contentment that seems, at this moment, perpetual. It occurs to the writer that the secret way to happiness is in knowing a lot of dead people." pg 150

    "Billeh's been lent a Kalashnikov, sand-blasted smooth and dull like those of the other two, each with a thirty-shot clip that may or may not be full, they refuse to say, and also Lion carries a sort of rocket, or grenade, that screws down onto the muzzle of his Kalashnikov and appears not to bear experimenting with. Lion produces from his waistband, for the writer's use, a 1917 model U.S. Army .45 caliber six-shooter, probably a Colt. It's got three forty-five automatic rounds in its cylinders, which are chambered for the long .45s, not the shorter automatic rounds. "One for each of you, if we're attacked, and one for me," the writer jokes-- they laugh like hell for twenty seconds, then shut down tight and inform him seriously that Muslims don't do suicide, it's banned by the Koran. He assures them the Bible's against it too, and everybody's comforted."pg 152

    "When logic and utility fall from grace, the mystical authority of subtler concerns rises up like an intoxicating incense, and everything is done for reasons no one understands." pg 155

    "Another night under a strange sky in a different realm. I listen to the reports on the shortwave of bombings, attacks, plagues, even witch-burnings (seventy elderly women burned in South Africa in the last ten months) and I feel I'm living in a world where such things are all there is... I've got a pocket New Testament, but I can't read much of it- because I'm living in the Bible's world right now, the world of cripples and monsters and desperate hope in a mad God, world of exile and impotence and the waiting, the waiting, the waiting. A world of miracles and deliverance, too. Add the invention of the Kalashnikov in 1947 into the mix, and life gets exciting." pg 157

    "Some begin complaining about the Marines, and others point with pride to the water trucks and big guns stolen from the U.N., to the blown-up troop trucks upended and wheelless in the streets, and the corner, a monument now, where eighteen U.S. Rangers died fighting Somali militia. The U.N.- What did it accomplish? The tons of food and medicine, it's all forgotten. Only the police effort and the bossing stays fresh in the minds of Mogadishu. The outfit that saved, by it's own count, 150,000 here seems almost universally derided and resented." pg 161

    "When the ill-timed efforts of nation-states to impose their idea of stability unbalances the tribal powers, the return to balance is violent." pg 161

    "The journalist from America has decided to cling to the notion that out there, in the countryside he passed through to reach this crazy city, the people know what they're doing. Their leaders don't, and we don't. But they know. All this destruction is shaping tomorrow- a tomorrow without a lot of Idaho White Boy ideas in it." pg 169

    "But the nation-state, the twentieth-century geopolitical entity held together by the government's monopoly on the use of force- it's finished. The Kalashnikov rifle and the Stinger missile, and the world-wide dissemination of these weapons during the proxy conflicts of the Cold War, have changed things as much as the invention of gunpowder did in the thirteenth century. A determined Third-World people can now hold out against the greatest powers- witness Vietnam- and even a loose coalition of determined clans or factions can drive away the strongest armies- witness Afghanistan- and now in Somalia and the former Yugoslavia it's been made plain that even factions at war with one another can, with their left hand, as it were, stalemate the U.N. in its efforts to stop the fighting among them." pg 170

  • Sean Beaudoin

    Denis Johnson is one of the best writers in America. There. Anything else need be said? Oh, yeah, this is a bunch of mostly non-fiction essays that are mostly very interesting and contain of all Johnson's trademark humanity, philosophy, descriptive ability, and lack of ego. Johnson travels from a Rainbow Gathering to Somalia to settle in and get a feel of things without making judgments. No grand pronouncements, just observation.

  • Kaya

    Dipped back into this recently and remembered how great some of these essays are. "Hippies" is probably my favorite (having grown up around Rainbow Family folks), but many other things in here are also great and timely reading today.

  • Gabe Baker

    At times a memoir, at times gonzo, Seek records Johnson's adventures both within and without the borders of the United States. While war-torn Afghanistan, Liberia and Somalia provide the more dramatic settings, I found Johnson's travels through American fringe culture more compelling. Johnson meets Rainbow Children, Bikers for Jesus, and right-wing militia men on their own terms, and describes them with detail and with humor. Johnson is sympathetic towards indivuals and suspicious of organizatio

    At times a memoir, at times gonzo, Seek records Johnson's adventures both within and without the borders of the United States. While war-torn Afghanistan, Liberia and Somalia provide the more dramatic settings, I found Johnson's travels through American fringe culture more compelling. Johnson meets Rainbow Children, Bikers for Jesus, and right-wing militia men on their own terms, and describes them with detail and with humor. Johnson is sympathetic towards indivuals and suspicious of organizations, and his personal search for meaning in a messed up a world provides an interesting parallels to his characters' wanderings.

  • AGamble

    There are some good pieces in this work, but they weren't the ones I expected to like. Where I thought "Jesus bikers" would be interesting, they bored me; where I thought "not another hippie piece" or "not another Africa report" I found, at the Rainbow gathering, hilarity and, in Africa, Johnson's backbone. Occasionally (and, for that matter, oddly) dull, but overall a good collection of essays by a fine writer.

  • Colin N.

    "Seek" is a collection of journalism by Denis Johnson from the early 1990s. The chapters span from his reporting in war torn areas such as Somalia, Liberia, and Afghanistan to his explorations of the fringes of life in America: a bikers for Jesus rally, a hippie festival, Alaskan survivalists, the towns in the area where Eric Rudolph avoided capture. The stories describe Johnson's interactions with the people in these areas and groups and his thoughts on each.

    Overall I thought this work was deci

    "Seek" is a collection of journalism by Denis Johnson from the early 1990s. The chapters span from his reporting in war torn areas such as Somalia, Liberia, and Afghanistan to his explorations of the fringes of life in America: a bikers for Jesus rally, a hippie festival, Alaskan survivalists, the towns in the area where Eric Rudolph avoided capture. The stories describe Johnson's interactions with the people in these areas and groups and his thoughts on each.

    Overall I thought this work was decidedly just okay. I am not sure where the effusive praise of some of the other postings is coming from. I liked the concept of the book much more then its execution. The writing was straightforward but not astounding, and I frankly found many of the chapters rather boring.

    The reason I gave the book 3 stars, however, instead of 2, is because the reports from war-torn areas, especially "An Anarchist's Guide to Somalia" and "The Small Boy's Unit" are fascinating tales. It really is amazing that Johnson managed to lived through those experiences and he really manages to capture the surreal insanity of such chaotic regions. "The Small Boy's Unit" is really gripping, you don't want to put it down until you find out how manages to extricate himself from the situation. If only the stories from America were similarly entertaining or insightful. Some, such as "Three Deserts" appear cobbled together and only loosely connected. And there is a bit of overlap between some chapters when Johnson repeats facts or observations he made elsewhere.

    Spotty, but a quick read and entertaining in parts.

  • M. Sarki

    Johnson brought back memories of my own trips to Alaska, flying in float planes in terrible storms, wanting to always fly with the experienced old pilot who had crashed numerous times only because he knew how to survive them, the old Beaver cargo planes, wilderness jaunts, loggers, whiskey, and barges. A story relating to the wilds of Alaska, actually being there and still living to tell about it, is no easy feat.

    I was surprised by this book of essays as I did not know Johnson was so involved as

    Johnson brought back memories of my own trips to Alaska, flying in float planes in terrible storms, wanting to always fly with the experienced old pilot who had crashed numerous times only because he knew how to survive them, the old Beaver cargo planes, wilderness jaunts, loggers, whiskey, and barges. A story relating to the wilds of Alaska, actually being there and still living to tell about it, is no easy feat.

    I was surprised by this book of essays as I did not know Johnson was so involved as a journalist. I wrote a more personal and detailed account of this book here:

  • Diann Blakely

    When the author of JESUS' SON appeared in the NEW YORK TIMES Sunday magazine talking not about sex, drugs, and rock ’n’ roll, but about the radically libertarian survivalist movement and its underground, one could almost hear the hip literary world’s collective gasp. Did Johnson’s newfound fascination with subjects like Ruby Ridge and Eric Paul Rudolph’s still successful evasion of the law in the Smoky Mountains mean that he was turning into an anti-big-government Republican? Or worse?

    This new c

    When the author of JESUS' SON appeared in the NEW YORK TIMES Sunday magazine talking not about sex, drugs, and rock ’n’ roll, but about the radically libertarian survivalist movement and its underground, one could almost hear the hip literary world’s collective gasp. Did Johnson’s newfound fascination with subjects like Ruby Ridge and Eric Paul Rudolph’s still successful evasion of the law in the Smoky Mountains mean that he was turning into an anti-big-government Republican? Or worse?

    This new collection of Johnson’s nonfiction prose renders such questions moot by bringing into visceral clarity what has always pulsed at his work’s sacred heart: The poet, fiction writer, and essayist is still hell-bent—so to speak—on the vertical burn, on not only gettin’ right with God but gettin’ in his face. The desire for spiritual transcendence, to use a blander term, kick-started Johnson’s own past addiction and current searches, but also, unfortunately--and this certainly isn't Johnson's fault--produced a godawful, so to speak, plethora of cheap druggy and kissy-face ones facsimiles. If Jesus is to be found among us, whispers “Hippies,” one of the most restless, enraged, and brilliant essays here, he won’t be at a longhaired reunion, smoking dope, and saying, “Loving you!”

    --adapted from the NASHVILLE SCENE/Village Voice Media, 13 September 2001

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