Train Dreams

I became aware of Train Dreams while watching a YouTube video of a talk between Michael Chabon, Zadie Smith and Ira Glass. At one point, Chabon and Smith talk about their shared admiration for Denis Johnson’s Train Dreams, a book universally loved by all writers, apparently, and one that has something of a mythic quality in terms of how it is able to accomplish all that it does in 116 short pages.

After reading it, I have the same questions. How in the world does Johnson create a deep character study, an engaging story, the portrait of a fascinating character, a detective-like exploration of a American mythology and a Stoner like walk through one man’s life that shows us a whole generation of American men? I don’t know if I’ll ever know. If Chabon and Smith can’t figure it out, I have no confidence I ever could.