Book Review: The Largesse of the Sea Maiden, by Denis Johnson


I’m a highly selective reader; if I am not passionately in love with a book after three pages, I let it go. This persnickety is both a quality and a flaw. I am demanding because there are too many wonderful books and too little life to read them all, so I feel an aching urge to not waste a second to a boring read. Yet of course, this deprives me of a waterfall of good stories, deep sentences and who knows… Maybe life changing lectures. I’m working on this pickiness of mine, however, until then… I must recommend a true delightful and extraordinary book, ‘’The Largesse of the Sea Maiden’’ by Denis Johnson.

Never I had read a book like that.

Despite the fact that this is a review, I don’t want to say much about the story itself. Perhaps, because from my point of view, the story is not what captivates the mind in this lecture, to be franc the story itself has been told in many ways, numerous times by countless authors. What makes this book into a masterpiece is the bright prose, the peculiar structure and the masterly use of words. With which, by simple narration, one dives into a contemplation of age, mortality, regrets, and the intangible, ambiguous and startling manners with which the enigmas and magic of life unravel. 

Johnson died in May 2017, shortly after finishing the book of which I write today. A book composed by a stunning assemble of short stories on the same life and the same man, carefully and chronologically collected. The Largesse of the Sea Maiden is a gather of the lasts words from a writer whose work will endure beyond the centuries. Of that I’m certain.


I'll finish by dropping my favorite sentence of those 224 pages, located in the fourth story, titled Farewell:

''As soon as I touched the receiver I wondered if I'd regret this, if I was holding a mistake in my hand, if I was pulling this mistake to my head and saying ''Hello'' to it.''

Ava L.