The Fictioning Horror Sale
 
 

Recently Viewed clear list


Original Essays | September 15, 2014

Lois Leveen: IMG Forsooth Me Not: Shakespeare, Juliet, Her Nurse, and a Novel



There's this writer, William Shakespeare. Perhaps you've heard of him. He wrote this play, Romeo and Juliet. Maybe you've heard of it as well. It's... Continue »
  1. $18.19 Sale Hardcover add to wish list

    Juliet's Nurse

    Lois Leveen 9781476757445

spacer
Qualifying orders ship free.
$6.98
List price: $12.00
Sale Trade Paper
Ships in 1 to 3 days
Add to Wishlist
Qty Store Section
2 Beaverton Literature- A to Z

Train Dreams: A Novella

by

Train Dreams: A Novella Cover

ISBN13: 9781250007650
ISBN10: 1250007658
Condition:
All Product Details

Only 2 left in stock at $6.98!

 

 

Excerpt

Train Dreams
 
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 teat?"
"Of course she can."

 

 

Many nights they heard the northbound Spokane International train as it passed through Meadow Creek, two miles down the valley. Tonight the distant whistle woke him, and he found himself alone in the straw bed.
Gladys was up with Kate, sitting on the bench by the stove, scraping cold boiled oats off the sides of the pot and letting the baby suckle this porridge from the end of her finger.
"How much does she know, do you suppose, Gladys? As much as a dog-pup, do you suppose?"
"A dog-pup can live by its own after the bitch weans it away," Gladys said.
He waited for her to explain what this meant. She often thought ahead of him.
"A man-child couldn't do that way," she said, "just go off and live after it was weaned. A dog knows more than a babe until the babe knows its words. But not just a few words. A dog raised around the house knows some words, too--as many as a baby."
"How many words, Gladys?"
"You know," she said, "the words for its tricks and the things you tell it to do."
"Just say some of the words, Glad." It was dark and he wanted to keep hearing her voice.
"Well, fetch, and come, and sit, and lay, and roll over. Whatever it knows to do, it knows the words."
In the dark he felt his daughter's eyes turned on him like a cornered brute's. It was only his thoughts tricking him, but it poured something cold down his spine. He shuddered and pulled the quilt up to his neck.
All of his life Robert Grainier was able to recall this very moment on this very night.
Copyright © 2002 by Denis Johnson

What Our Readers Are Saying

Add a comment for a chance to win!
Average customer rating based on 10 comments:

lukas, March 20, 2014 (view all comments by lukas)
Denis Johnson wrote a big, ambitious, sprawling book about Vietnam ("Tree of Smoke"), so it's understandable that he returned to the small scale and stark prose of his earlier books. A novella doesn't necessarily have to be slight, but this is to the point of being forgettable, despite Johnson's skillful writing. For my money, he's never topped his collection of interconnected stories, "Jesus' Son." There are some similarities to McCarthy, but Johnson's more down to earth.
Was this comment helpful? | Yes | No
(1 of 2 readers found this comment helpful)
rroseselavy, January 30, 2013 (view all comments by rroseselavy)
An elegy for the most common sort of person who must in some ways typify who really settled the American West. Much in the spirit of Let Us Now Praise Famous Men by James Agee, Johnson finds the glory and poetry in the life of someone people did not even notice had died. An amazing book that could not be more well written, nor written with more economy.
Was this comment helpful? | Yes | No
(1 of 2 readers found this comment helpful)
Darin, January 1, 2013 (view all comments by Darin)
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.
Was this comment helpful? | Yes | No
(1 of 2 readers found this comment helpful)
View all 10 comments

Product Details

ISBN:
9781250007650
Author:
Johnson, Denis
Publisher:
Picador USA
Subject:
Literary
Subject:
Historical
Subject:
Literature-A to Z
Copyright:
Edition Description:
Trade paper
Publication Date:
20120531
Binding:
TRADE PAPER
Language:
English
Pages:
128
Dimensions:
7.125 x 4.5 in

Other books you might like

  1. Three Junes
    Used Trade Paper $5.95
  2. Salvage the Bones
    Sale Trade Paper $7.98
  3. The Kitchen House
    Used Trade Paper $5.50
  4. The Art of Fielding
    Used Trade Paper $7.50
  5. The Buddha in the Attic
    Used Trade Paper $8.00
  6. Lots of Candles, Plenty of Cake Used Trade Paper $7.95

Related Subjects

Featured Titles » General
Featured Titles » Literature
Featured Titles » Miscellaneous Award Winners
Featured Titles » New Arrivals
Fiction and Poetry » Literature » A to Z
Fiction and Poetry » Literature » Featured Titles
Fiction and Poetry » Literature » Sale Books
Fiction and Poetry » Mystery » A to Z

Train Dreams: A Novella Sale Trade Paper
0 stars - 0 reviews
$6.98 In Stock
Product details 128 pages Picador USA - English 9781250007650 Reviews:
spacer
spacer
  • back to top
Follow us on...




Powell's City of Books is an independent bookstore in Portland, Oregon, that fills a whole city block with more than a million new, used, and out of print books. Shop those shelves — plus literally millions more books, DVDs, and gifts — here at Powells.com.