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Denis Johnson's characters hook up

August 12, 2008 | 12:28 pm


Jacket Copy's ongoing conversation about Denis Johnson's noir serial "Nobody Move" continues. ...

In "Nobody Move," Denis Johnson makes sure that his leads, Anita and Jimmy, hook up. When we left them at the end of Part 1, they were heading toward bed:

"When was a guy like you ever lucky?"
He pulled her blouse over her head and a couple of buttons popped loose and flew at his face…. “Have you looked at yourself in the mirror lately? I’m lucky now."

Cut to Part 2: Jimmy wakes up and looks at Anita’s body between the sheets; whatever happened between them goes unwritten. Soon they get up, encounter authorities, embark on their road trip and wind up together again in a seedy room above a bar. Anita’s aphrodisiac is booze, and when Jimmy finally gets her in the mood...

The TV emitted a small steady roar. In the show a man clung to the side of a speeding train. Luntz let the TV run so he could see her by its light. All through their lovemaking Anita kept quiet, but she looked right at him....

And then there’s a break. Right when Denis Johnson gets to the sex, his details get rather vague. Has the author of "Jesus' Son" gone prim?

That's after the jump.

There are Anita and Jimmy, stuck in that room above the bar, whiling away the hours with nothing to do but run downstairs for food and booze and otherwise stay in bed. They seem to like each other, and they do make love, more than once, but it lacks a certain detail. Johnson is writing about sex but in a way that is literary; it's suggestive and perhaps a little titillating, but not dirty or improper.

Not that there’s anything wrong with that. “She made love like a drunken nun” is funny and descriptive, but it's also modest, especially in the context in which it’s published. Playboy (in which the noir serial is appearing) has pages of photos of nude and mostly nude women, enormous breasts speckled with whipped cream, bottoms-up on beds, emerging from swimming pools and bathtubs dripping wet. David mentions that the magazine's readers must be half-distracted by the naked pictures, and while Playboy is probably tame by porn standards, it stands in prurient contrast to Johnson's story. Can a drunken nun compete?

— Carolyn Kellogg

Photo by StregAngela via Flickr