Fortune Smiles

Fortune Smiles features some of the best short stories I’ve ever read. And they’re all in the same book. And they’re all by the same author. Each story in this collection is full of feeling, every character is written as a recognizable person, every character and every plot feel tightly wound up in each other. Not a moment after I finished one was I excited about what new direction Johnson would take me in with the next.

Although each story in Johnson’s collection is slightly different, you can feel the same intellect behind them all. After only a few pages, it becomes easy to recognize whether he’s writing about a woman with breast cancer, Korean refugees, a troubled tech support worker or a former Stasi prison officer, that Johnson makes it his mission to fully understand each of his characters. He is never writing in judgment. His ability to empathize with people close and far from him is unparalleled. I don’t remember if I read this somewhere or if this is a thought I’ve come to believe on my own, but a artist’s biggest asset is his or her gift for empathy. An artist’s ability to succeed is strongly and positively correlated with his or her capacity for empathy. Johnson seems to be winning that battle by a mile, among writers writing today.