Synopses & Reviews
Once upon a time there was a war... and a young American who thought of himself as the Quiet American and the Ugly American, and who wished to be neither, who wanted instead to be the Wise American, or the Good American, but who eventually came to witness himself as the Real American and finally as simply the Fucking American. That's me.
This is the story of Skip Sands — spy-in-training, engaged in Psychological Operations against the Vietcong — and the disasters that befall him thanks to his famous uncle, a war hero known in intelligence circles simply as the Colonel. This is also the story of the Houston brothers, Bill and James, young men who drift out of the Arizona desert into a war in which the line between disinformation and delusion has blurred away. In its vision of human folly, and its gritty, sympathetic portraits of men and women desperate for an end to their loneliness, whether in sex or death or by the grace of God, this is a story like nothing in our literature.
Tree of Smoke is Denis Johnson's first full-length novel in nine years, and his most gripping, beautiful, and powerful work to date.
"Denis Johnson is a true American artist, and Tree of Smoke is a tremendous book." The New York Times Book Review
"The God I want to believe in has a voice and a sense of humor like Denis Johnson's." Jonathan Franzen
"I can't be sure that there's been a better American novel published in the past ten years. It is a masterpiece." The Miami Herald
"It will...get inside your head like the war it is describing — mystifying, horrifying, mesmerizing. [Johnson] has written a book that by the end wraps around you as tightly as a snake." The Washington Post Book World"
"Tree of Smoke is a masterpiece of language and depth." San Francisco Chronicle
"Johnson has captured the zeitgeist of American experience as surely as Twain, Hemingway, or Ellison." New York Post
"Opens a window onto a world of mystery, war, and intrigue whose importance in the (usually) unwritten history of our republic can't be denied." Chicago Tribune
"Johnson has written his War and Peace." Harper's Magazine
Winner of the National Book Award
One of the New York Times 10 Best Books of the Year
Named a Best Book of the Year by Time, The Washington Post, The Boston Globe, Chicago Tribune, San Francisco Chronicle, Amazon.com, Salon, Slate, The National Book Critics Circle, The Christian Science Monitor....
Tree of Smoke is the story of William "Skip" Sands, CIA — engaged in Psychological Operations against the Vietcong — and the disasters that befall him. It is also the story of the Houston brothers, Bill and James, young men who drift out of the Arizona desert and into a war where the line between disinformation and delusion has blurred away. In the words of Michiko Kakutani in The New York Times, Tree of Smoke is "bound to become one of the classic works of literature produced by that tragic and uncannily familiar war."
About the Author
Denis Johnson is the author of seven works of fiction, three collections of poetry, and one book of reportage. He is the recipient of a Lannan Fellowship and a Whiting Writers' Award, among many other honors for his work.