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Remembering Author Denis Johnson

SCOTT SIMON, HOST:

Denis Johnson has died at the age of 67. John Updike said he had the gleaming economy and aggressive minimalism of early Hemingway. He won the National Book Award in 2007 for his novel "Tree Of Smoke," but his best-known work might be his 1992 short story collection, "Jesus' Son," about a group of addicts who ranged around rural America. A character in one story says, (reading) I'd been staying at the Holiday Inn with my girlfriend, honestly the most beautiful woman I'd ever known, for three days under a phony name, shooting heroin. We made love in the bed, ate steaks at the restaurant, shot up in the john, puked, cried, accused one another, begged of one another, forgave, promised and carried one another to heaven.

Denis Johnson was the son of a diplomat who was a liaison with the CIA, and he grew up overseas and in comfortable suburbs. But he told an interviewer in 2003, the stories of the fallen world, they excite us. That's the interesting stuff.

(SOUNDBITE OF LANTERNA'S "COASTAL ROUTE") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.