Denis Johnson, the acclaimed author best known for such contemporary classics as Jesus’ Son, Angels, Tree of Smoke, and Train Dreams, has passed away at the age of 67.
Widely regarded as one of the top literary talents of his generation, Johnson deftly transformed the images and sensations of his troubled early life into searing and inimitable works of fiction and poetry.
News of his death was confirmed this morning by Jonathan Galassi, president of publishing house Farrar, Straus & Giroux.
“Denis was one of the great writers of his generation,” Galassi said in a statement issued today.
“He wrote prose with the imaginative concentration and empathy of the poet he was.”
Born in Munich, Germany in 1949, but raised primarily in the US, Johnson endured several tumultuous years as a drifter and addict before sobering up and focusing on his passion for the written word.
In 1984, earned an MFA from the Iowa Writer’s Workshop, where he studied under such literary icons as Raymond Carver.
Not long after leaving the program, the prolific Johnson began churning out distinctive poetry and short stories that quickly made his name a sort of byword for underground literary cool.
Johnson won the National Book Award in 2012 for his sprawling Vietnam epic Tree of Smoke.
The book was shortlisted for the Pulitzer Prize, as was Johnson’s 2012 novella, Train Dreams.
But it’s the short story collection Jesus’ Son for which Johnson will likely be best remembered.
With a title taken from the infamous Lou Reed song "Heroin", the book delves deep into the lives of dissolute junkies and transients – men and women living lives not unlike Johnson’s in his young adulthood.
The collection was adapted into an acclaimed 1999 film starring Billy Crudup, Jack Black, and Denis Leary.
In 2006, Jesus’ Son was cited by The New York Times as one of the most important literary works of the past 25 years.
Within minutes of the news of his death Johnson’s name became a worldwide trending topic on Twitter due to a deluge of tributes from friends, fans and the many fellow writers on whom his work served as a profound influence.
Johnson is survived by three children.