Gary McMahon: The Book I Would Like To Be Buried With…

March 29, 2010 by
Filed under: Bury Me With This Book, Interviews 

jesus sonIn the second in the series of Bury Me With…, I asked scary Gary McMahon about the book that has influenced him more than any, the book he’d like to take with him to his grave…

“I had to think about this one for a long time, and two or three books immediately demanded my attention – books that had a profound effect on my entire life when I first read them. Alan Garner’s Elidor, John Steinbeck’s The Grapes of Wrath, Cormac McCarthy’s The Road. But in the end, I went back to the first book I thought of when I saw the question:

Jesus’ Son, by Denis Johnson.

Johnson’s book consists of a bunch of episodic short stories, all narrated by the same character – a nameless junkie in 1970s America. The stories chart his drug addiction and his ennui, but they also show us so much more about the character and the people around him. The narrator’s voice has a fragile poetic quality, but there’s also a grinding realism to the descriptions of the world he moves through.

There’s beauty here, and pain, and even transcendence. The spirituality of the book has little to do with God or religion, but provides striking insights regarding humanity in all its shattered glory. Everyone the narrator meets is as broken as him, and rather than wallow in self-pity he is overcome with the melancholy beauty of the human condition. His observations and insights are tender and life-affirming, yet he is a true lost soul. When he tells us “I knew every raindrop by its name”, we believe him, and we feel his sense of awe as he says it.

If you’ve never read this book before, do yourself a favour and track it down. My own copy is never far from hand. I’ve only ever read it all the way through once, but I dip into it often, licking the frost off the dream (to steal and abuse a line from Charles Bukowski).

Jesus’ Son is a masterpiece: it’s a book that reminds me what it is to be human.”

More information on Denis Johnson can be found at Wikipedia.


mcmahonAbout Gary McMahon:

Gary McMahon’s fiction has appeared in magazines and anthologies in the U.K. and U.S and has been reprinted in both The Mammoth Book of Best New Horror and The Year’s Best Fantasy and Horror. He is the British-Fantasy-Award-nominated author of Rough Cut, All Your Gods Are Dead, Dirty Prayers, How to Make Monsters, Rain Dogs, Different Skins, Pieces of Midnight, Hungry Hearts, and has edited an anthology of original novelettes titled We Fade to Grey.

Angry Robot/HarperCollins will publish the novels Pretty Little Dead Things and Dead Bad Things in 2010 and 2011. The Concrete Grove trilogy will be published by Solaris Books from 2011 onwards.


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