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Train Dreams: A Novella

Train Dreams: A Novella

Автор Denis Johnson

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Train Dreams: A Novella

Автор Denis Johnson

оценки:
4/5 (84 оценки)
Длина:
85 страниц
1 час
Издатель:
Издано:
30 авг. 2011 г.
ISBN:
9781429995207
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Описание

A New York Times Notable Book for 2011
One of The Economist's 2011 Books of the Year
One of NPR's 10 Best Novels of 2011

From the National Book Award-winning author Denis Johnson
(Tree of Smoke) comes Train Dreams, an epic in miniature, and one of Johnson's most evocative works of fiction.

Suffused with the history and landscapes of the American West—its otherworldly flora and fauna, its rugged loggers and bridge builders—this extraordinary novella poignantly captures the disappearance of a distinctly American way of life.

It tells the story of Robert Grainer, a day laborer in the American West at the start of the twentieth century—an ordinary man in extraordinary times. Buffeted by the loss of his family, Grainer struggles to make sense of this strange new world. As his story unfolds, we witness both his shocking personal defeats and the radical changes that transform America in his lifetime.

Издатель:
Издано:
30 авг. 2011 г.
ISBN:
9781429995207
Формат:

Об авторе

Denis Johnson is the author of The Name of the World, Already Dead, Jesus' Son, Resuscitation of a Hanged Man, Fiskadoro, The Stars at Noon, and Angels. His poetry has been collected in the volume The Throne of the Third Heaven of the Nations Millennium General Assembly. He is the recipient of a Lannan Fellowship and a Whiting Writer's Award, among many other honors for his work. He lives in northern Idaho.


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Train Dreams - Denis Johnson

1

In the summer of 1917 Robert Grainier took part in an attempt on the life of a Chinese laborer caught, or anyway accused of, stealing from the company stores of the Spokane International Railway in the Idaho Panhandle.

Three of the railroad gang put the thief under restraint and dragged him up the long bank toward the bridge under construction fifty feet above the Moyea River. A rapid singsong streamed from the Chinaman voluminously. He shipped and twisted like a weasel in a sack, lashing backward with his one free fist at the man lugging him by the neck. As this group passed him, Grainier, seeing them in some distress, lent assistance and found himself holding one of the culprit’s bare feet. The man facing him, Mr. Sears, of Spokane International’s management, held the prisoner almost uselessly by the armpit and was the only one of them, besides the incomprehensible Chinaman, to talk during the hardest part of their labors: Boys, I’m damned if we ever see the top of this heap! Then we’re hauling him all the way? was the question Grainier wished to ask, but he thought it better to save his breath for the struggle. Sears laughed once, his face pale with fatigue and horror. They all went down in the dust and got righted, went down again, the Chinaman speaking in tongues and terrifying the four of them to the point that whatever they may have had in mind at the outset, he was a deader now. Nothing would do but to toss him off the trestle.

They came abreast of the others, a gang of a dozen men pausing in the sun to lean on their tools and wipe at sweat and watch this thing. Grainier held on convulsively to the Chinaman’s horny foot, wondering at himself, and the man with the other foot let loose and sat down gasping in the dirt and got himself kicked in the eye before Grainier took charge of the free-flailing limb. It was just for fun. For fun, the man sitting in the dirt said, and to his confederate there he said, Come on, Jel Toomis, let’s give it up. I can’t let loose, this Mr. Toomis said, I’m the one’s got him by the neck! and laughed with a gust of confusion passing across his features. Well, I’ve got him! Grainier said, catching both the little demon’s feet tighter in his embrace. I’ve got the bastard, and I’m your man!

The party of executioners got to the midst of the last completed span, sixty feet above the rapids, and made every effort to toss the Chinaman over. But he bested them by clinging to their arms and legs, weeping his gibberish, until suddenly he let go and grabbed the beam beneath him with one hand. He kicked free of his captors easily, as they were trying to shed themselves of him anyway, and went over the side, dangling over the gorge and making hand-over-hand out over the river on the skeleton form of the next span. Mr. Toomis’s companion rushed over now, balancing on a beam, kicking at the fellow’s fingers. The Chinaman dropped from beam to beam like a circus artist downward along the crosshatch structure. A couple of the work gang cheered his escape, while others, though not quite certain why he was being chased, shouted that the villain ought to be stopped. Mr. Sears removed from the holster on his belt a large old four-shot black-powder revolver and took his four, to no effect. By then the Chinaman had vanished.

Hiking to his home after this incident, Grainier detoured two miles to the store at the railroad village of Meadow Creek to get a bottle of Hood’s Sarsaparilla for his wife, Gladys, and their infant daughter, Kate. It was hot going up the hill through the woods toward the cabin, and before getting the last mile he stopped and bathed in the river, the Moyea, at a deep place upstream from the village.

It was Saturday night, and in preparation for the evening a number of the railroad gang from Meadow Creek were gathered at the hole, bathing with their clothes on and sitting themselves out on the rocks to dry before the last of the daylight left the canyon. The men left their shoes and boots aside and waded in slowly up to their shoulders, whooping and splashing. Many of the men already sipped whiskey from flasks as they sat shivering after their ablutions. Here and there an arm and hand clutching a shabby hat jutted from the surface while somebody got his head wet. Grainier recognized nobody and stayed off by himself and kept a close eye on his boots and his bottle of sarsaparilla.

Walking home in the falling dark, Grainier almost met the Chinaman everywhere. Chinaman in the road. Chinaman in the woods. Chinaman walking softly, dangling his hands on arms like ropes. Chinaman dancing up out of the creek like a spider.

He gave the Hood’s to Gladys. She sat up in bed by the stove, nursing the baby at her breast, down with a case of the salt rheum. She could easily have braved it and done her washing and cut up potatoes and trout for supper, but it was their custom to let her lie up with a bottle or two of the sweet-tasting Hood’s tonic when her head ached and her nose stopped, and get a holiday from such chores. Grainier’s baby daughter, too, looked rheumy. Her eyes were a bit crusted and the discharge bubbled pendulously at her nostrils while she suckled and snorted at her mother’s breast. Kate was four months old, still entirely bald. She did not seem to recognize him. Her little illness wouldn’t hurt her as long as she didn’t develop a cough out of it.

Now Grainier stood by the table in the single-room cabin and worried. The Chinaman, he was sure, had cursed them powerfully while they dragged him along, and any bad thing might come of it. Though astonished now at the frenzy of the afternoon, baffled by the violence, at how it had carried him away like a seed in a wind, young Grainier still wished they’d gone ahead and killed that Chinaman before he’d cursed them.

He sat on the edge of the bed.

Thank you, Bob, his wife said.

Do you like your sarsaparilla?

I do. Yes, Bob.

"Do you suppose little Kate can taste it out your

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  • (5/5)
    Proving that powerful writing does not require an abundance of technical flourishes and exuberant verbosity, Denis Johnson's masterful novella tells its tale with a language so precisely honed the reader feels an immediate kinship with Robert Grainier, the early 20th century woodsman whose life of considerable loss we experience. Born in 1886 in either Utah or Canada, Grainier never knew his birth family. Hiring on first with logging outfits in Washington state, then with the railroads, he has never shirked from honest, hard labor. Finally meeting a woman of whom he feels worthy, he marries in his early 30s and has a daughter, only to suffer unspeakable tragedy.Retreating from society to his self-built cabin in the woods, Robert is our guide through the early 20th century as technogical marvels outpaced the capacity to adapt to them. He has driven wagons with teams of horses, built and rode the rails, motored in early automobiles and even flown in a biplane. That this novella (first published in the Paris Review in 2002) tells of alienation juxtaposed with advanced technology which purportedly makes communication and travel easier, the parallels to the early 21st century never cease to amaze; with all of the gadgetry and telecommunications devices at our disposal, are we any less isolated than the part-time hermit living at the edges of his time and place? The effect is a temporal displacement that lesser writers could not pull off.Beautifully composed, gorgeously literate, full of wondrous yet precise description, Train Dreams transports its readers across time to experience the heartache of one man and his place in a country which does its best to strip him of all that is worth living. Scenes of natural wonder, heartbreaking tenderness and phantasmagorical echoes compete to create a landscape of the human heart. Highly recommended to read annually as a reminder of our place in the grand scheme of things.
  • (5/5)
    Loved this book.
  • (5/5)
    So good that just a few hours after finishing this jewel, I went back and read it again. Denis Johnson, National Book Award Winner for Tree of Smoke, has written a tender, sparse novella of the life of Robert Grainier, a common laborer in the Northwestern US in the early 20th C.. Granier is a quiet man who lives, loves, works, and grieves and tries not to be too overwhelmed by the remarkable changing world. Just enough-- just perfect!
  • (4/5)
    Beautifully written novella about a man and his place in time, turn of the 20th century in the American West. It's an art to create imagery and feeling in spare prose and few pages and Johnson does a magnificent job. A good start for my first book of the year, read on my porch in the January sun in the northeast.
  • (4/5)
    A solid 7.5. The story meanders a bit and Denis Johnson's wolf imagery was a little obvious (as soon as they mentioned the Wolf Girl I knew who she was). The story doesn't have that many interesting scenes after the great fire but the opening was very strong. Still, I enjoyed the book and a lot of Johnson's scenes were surreal and beautiful (opening scene on the scaffolding, the logging scenes, the fire, etc...)
  • (5/5)
    This is a great example of a book where not really too much happens; however, one definitely remembers the main character and for no particular reason. He's about as average as a man could be in the northwest in the late 1800's. But that is the point, we are allowed to walk in the shoes of that individual through some joys, terrible tragedy, and days filled with injustices, hard work, uncertainty, boredom and loneliness. Yet he survives. The rugged terrain and life of this man works as a reflection of the West during this time: a time that the forest were being cleared, civilization was invading the wilderness, and life was changing in such a way that will never be seen again. The character of Robert Grainier will be one to remember although you might not be sure why.
  • (4/5)
    Trains typically go directly from one place to another. And while they may pass through some nice countrysides, it is more often than not, a direct route. Unlike trains, Train Dreams, the Pulitzer Price fiction nominee by Denis Johnson, takes a meandering route to get from its begimning to its end.Train Dreams charts the life of Robert Grainier beginning in 1917 when he, along with several other railway workers, almost throws a Chinese laborer off an in-process railroad tressle. It travels forward to a fire that guts the town he resides in, destroying his cabin in the woods. His wife, Gladys, and daughter, Kate, are not seen again. It reverses course and describes his childhood living with his aunt, uncle and cousins, having lost his parents at an early age. It then forges ahead to his later, solitary years.Train Dreams resembles more a meandering river than the fast moving steel wheels for which Robert worked for a time. This spare novelette, a mere 115 pages, is interesting and literary. You can picture Robert reminiscing, at the end of his long life, about random events. Even though the novel doesn't mention this, you can picture him sitting on his front porch in a rocking chair letting his mind wander, letting thoughts in no particular order enter and exit his memories. In some ways, Train Dreams is quite satisfying in its brevity. In other ways, readers might want more. Which reader will you be?
  • (5/5)
    I thought this little book was practically perfect.
  • (4/5)
    Found the book interesting and well written, but cannot say it was worthy of a Pulitzer nomination. I learned something about the timber industry!
  • (4/5)
    Described as an epic in miniature, this story of Robert Granier spans from 1817 to 1968. Robert Grainier is a day laborer, logger, homesteader and hermit. He loves and lost all but also made a business for himself. It is the story of America and the American dream. This is a set of loosely connected tales of Robert Grainier's life.
  • (4/5)
    This very short novella is a dreamlike look back at a drifter's life building train tracks, logging, and delivering largely in the Pacific Northwest, largely in the 1920s and 1930s (although some of the episodes are from when he was a child at the turn of the century or as late as the 1960s when he died). It transports you right into the world it describes: you can almost hear the clattering of the railroad, smell the sap from the trees and see the wildfires spreading up the mountain. There's not really anything in the way of plot and the other characters are not drawn particularly sharply, but that is not much of a hindrance in a work this length.
  • (3/5)
    Beautifully written novella of a man's experience of love and loss in the early 20th century west. Not sure I really got it.
  • (5/5)
    A concise portait of the American west that blends the best of Twain and Kerouac, but still has a unique perspective and voice. The novella seems to me to be an underutilized form these days. In this form the darker themes are not oppressive and the symbolism across chapters is easier to catch.
  • (4/5)
    Robert Grainier is a type of Everyman. His story begins in 1917 and through his eyes we observe many of the events of his life and the underside of history. Through this, the reader can experience what certain events were like in the early to mid twentiety century.Grainier is there when the Spokane International Railway was building its lines. They employeed many Chinese people and Grainier assists a number of men when they decide to throw a Chinaman off a bridge. The man's offense, stealing from the company store.The man escapes by jumping into the water below and while Grainier is walking home, he seems to see the Chinaman everywhere. In one place "...dancing up and out of the creek like a spider."We see flashbacks of Grainier's earlier life and at one point we see the scene when an injured man by the side of a road, asks him to give him some water and when he dies, to tell the sheriff the name of the person who injured him and left him to die.As in many books dealing with the development of areas of the country, he describes tragedies that go along with successes. One day Grainier was coming home after being away to earn money. A fire was consuming the entire area, causing people to flee in every direction. What happens to his family has a profound effect on the rest of his life.This novells was an enjoyable read and gave me pause to consider the hardships that others endured to get us where we are today.
  • (4/5)
    A small book about a man in the 1st half of the 19th century in Idaho and Washington. Evocative and restrained. Good.
  • (5/5)
    A small gem!Robert Granier, a hapless orphan, spends his life as a humble laborer in the panhandle of Idaho. He meets his wife at church and they homestead a barren acre bringing it and a child to life. Tragedy strikes and he never recovers.this book will remind the reader of a Wallace Stegner story or Steinbeck novella. A timeless story of the American experience.
  • (5/5)
    This novella, originally published in the Paris Review in 2002, tells the story of Robert Grainier, an orphan born in either Utah or Canada – he’s not sure which – around 1886. Grainier lives most of his eighty years on a single acre near Bonner’s Ferry, Idaho. His life mirrors the struggles and growing pains of the American West early in the 20th century. Grainier wrestles with loneliness and the social changes surrounding him. He endures the loss of his wife and daughter in a fire that sweeps through the area, and although he rebuilds and carries on, Grainer never really recovers the spark and promise of life in the transforming nation. Train Dreams feels much bigger in scope and ambition than its length would indicate.
  • (5/5)
    I have loved every Denis Johnson book I've read. TRAIN DREAMS is my sixth, and yes, I was immediately caught up in this deceptively simple story of the life of orphaned Robert Grainier in frontier Idaho. It is a story filled with loneliness, sadness, humor, tragic events, and, finally, acceptance. I was reminded of a few other books I've read in recent years - by Amanda Coplin (THE ORCHARDIST), Molly Gloss (THE JUMP-OFF CREEK and THE HEARTS OF HORSES), Shann Ray (AMERICAN COPPER) and Gil Adamson (THE OUTLANDER). But Johnson's unique accomplishment is that he manages to create his own magically realistic world in barely a hundred pages. An entire long life is compressed into this shining gem of frontier fiction. I can't figure out how he does it, but I'm still thinking about it. This is simply a beautiful little book. My highest recommendation.- Tim Bazzett, author of the memoir, BOOKLOVER
  • (3/5)
    Just started. Enjoying. And then when it went all magical realism suddenly I no longer did.
  • (2/5)
    I have listened to this twice on audio now and neither time did it really capture my attention. Did Johnson have beautiful sentences? At time, yes. Did I think Idaho might be a beautiful place to visit? Yes. Did I realize why the Pulitzer committee couldn't pick a book this year? Yes.
  • (3/5)
    Another good book dealing with loss. I can't seem to stop reading books like this. Definitely worth the short investment of time.
  • (3/5)
    Book descriptions can be misleading. I mean, let's be honest, the publisher is trying to sell a book here. So let me just say that the summary for Train Dreams is flawed. “Epic in miniature:” it is certainly miniature. While its premise had potential to elicit some kind of response from the reader, it fails to be “evocative and poignant.” “Radical,” “otherworldly,” and “rugged” it is not. The description is not completely inaccurate, however. One line, “an ordinary man in extraordinary times,” most accurately describes this story.

    Set against a wonderful backdrop of “extraordinary times” and places, Train Dreams has considerable promise. If the book harnessed this potential, and fulfilled its claim that the author “captures the disappearance of a distinctly American way of life,” it could possibly be a good story. Using Johnson's title as an analogy, the book refuses to board the train that takes us through this scenic and potentially exciting story, rather choosing to watch train's steam rise above the valley from afar.

    The problem largely resides in the fact that Johnson is telling a story here. There is little else. I never identify with Robert Grainer. I don't feel for him nor sympathize with his plight. A large part of this distance is the character of Grainer, a man who lives in a time and place where he is expected to be rugged. Yes, Grainer is a little rugged; at the same time, I sensed the character wanted to be more emotional than his author would allow him to be. Grainer never steps past being an “ordinary man.”

    I never had a clear sense of development in the story's arch or in its protagonist. I couldn't get into it. Many times, my mind wandered. In short, Train Dreams is a good story, but nothing more. It's the sort of story you expect to hear your grandfather tell while sitting on a stuffy couch in the evening hours of Thanksgiving Day. Therefore, if you're looking for more “stuffing” for your reading list, I'd go for Train Dreams. It's not a bad story, it just smells a little too much of grandpa.
  • (3/5)


    A difficult read. It fehlt very melancholy for me, though it was told with some kind of distance.
  • (4/5)
    A gritty story about the life of a man who grows up in the Northwest, loses a great deal in the 1910 fire which swept across Idaho, Montana and Washington. I don't want to say too much but I will say that Johnson made real for me the cost of that fire.
  • (5/5)
    "Train Dreams" is my third book by Denis Johnson, after reading the Californian gothic novel "Already dead" and the coming-of-age novella "The name of the world" and once again I'm fascinated by the deep humanity of his storytelling and the focused prosa style. When reading Johnson, it no longer matters to me whether his works are realistic or not, his characters are simply credible or authentic. Here again he deals with what could lend meaning to a man's life in a world gone wrong, in a world of personal tragedies and sacrifices.The sentences of this story are so exactly constructed that only on their surface they tell the story of Robert Granier, a simple minded, hard-working man defying the many twists of fate in his life, like the early loss of his wife and daughter in a firestorm destroying his newly built house. A closer read reveals the author's deep sense of humour and his wonderful command in portraying America's struggle to get civilized over the course of the first decades of the 19th century, when the wild west was won with each mile of land covered with train tracks. Highly recommended.If you like this, try Stewart O'Nan's fantastic novel "A prayer for the dying" or Don DeLillo's "Falling man".
  • (4/5)
    A beautiful and sparely written story of a man's life located in the northwestern US during the early 20th century. Through the life of Robert Grenier we see how lives are torn apart by natural and man made disasters. And we see both the resilience and the meanness of the human spirit. To say anything more would be a spoiler.
  • (4/5)
    The terse style fits this account of a spare early 20th-century life on the The hard men, the tough women, very hard physical work but not very much comfort and relationships can make you happy.I can see the comparisons to Cormac McCarthy. Reminds me also of Alice Munro's recent collection that she strung together from what little she knew of her ancestors in Scotland, Canada and the US. But there's this whisp of the supernatural too: for example, the imagined Chinaman and the wolf girl that could be the daughter Robert thought lost in the prairie fire that killed his wife. The myths and otherworldly explanations from from Kootenai Bob, a Native American--the Native American,I should say--that is always a very peripheral figure. As I recall from a long ago class in regional Am lit, that's a characteristic of the Midwestern frontier genre, where settlers (often immigrants) are attempting to homestead, conquer the land: Native Americans are there, but usually on the periphery. They aren't dangerous or threatening usually. They're often farming, logging, fishing or doing whatever the settlers are but they tend to be especially good at it, better survivors. The nearness of death by disease, fever or natural disaster. Freak deaths or accidents, like the man shot by his dog--humor running through,too--but of course nothing like hospitals or even real physicians nearby. There is also the proximity of evil people like the uncle who sexually abused his niece, whose father then killed her. That man will tell you that tale.There's a brief exchange that sums up Robert's life and that of many other male settlers. Robert is helping a recent widow move far away to a town and her relatives, along with a rougher type that has the hots for her. She might be thinking Robert is a better prospect but "you men are worn down pretty early in life. Are you going to marry again?""No." "No. You just don't want to work any harder than you do now. Do you?""No, I do not."A bit later she says. "I wanted to see if your own impression of you matched up with mine is all, Robert.""Well, then."Now she may well be only referring to physical wear and tear but we know that Robert also doesn't want to risk losing another wife or child. He grieves for years and years. He isn't the only one hiding wounds
  • (5/5)
    This is a big jewel in a little package made of matter-of-fact details. Johnson tells a tale of a man who faces life’s challenges and wins despite having lost almost everything. Robert Grainier endures in his fight against nature and we are blessed who can read this transcendent story of his triumph.
  • (2/5)
    Much hyped novella title "Train Dreams" by literary pop star Denis Johnson fails in its attempt to reach the lows and highs of the typical Cormac McCarthy offering. Of course, through the years, I have read much worse work than Johnson's, but why bother with it? McCarthy for years has had his jaw firmly planted on the genre and there is little use in others sinking their teeth in next to his. They will only get hurt in the long run, but after they have made their dimes and bought new suits, and reviewers from the New Yorker make them out to be a writer they aren't. I am so tired of the pop-made artist these days. Instead, I recommend you read a book, any book, by Cormac McCarthy and then go try Denis Johnson and find out why his failure is imminently assured.
  • (5/5)
    Slice out a few hours to read this little gem, because you cannot put it down. Beautiful storytelling of a gripping, tragic, and rich life in the area of Washington-Idaho-Montana at the turn of the century. Stunning and wonderful.