Angels: A Novel
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The most critically acclaimed, and first, of Denis Johnson's novels, Angels puts Jamie Mays -- a runaway wife toting along two kids -- and Bill Houston -- ex-Navy man, ex-husband, ex-con -- on a Greyhound Bus for a dark, wild ride cross country. Driven by restless souls, bad booze, and desperate needs, Jamie and Bill bounce from bus stations to cheap hotels as they ply the strange, fascinating, and dangerous fringe of American life. Their tickets may say Phoenix, but their inescapable destination is a last stop marked by stunning violence and mind-shattering surprise.
Denis Johnson, known for his portraits of America's dispossessed, sets off literary pyrotechnics on this highway odyssey, lighting the trek with wit and a personal metaphysics that defiantly takes on the world.
everything scared him. Whenever she looked at him he had his face in his arms, hiding from the pictures in his own brain. Finally he’d blown it, their whole marriage. She’d seen it coming like a red caboose at the end of a train. Cut loose between Oakland and everything that would happen next, she couldn’t stand to let the bus keep moving and thought, I’ll get off this bus at the breakfast stop and change my ticket for the next bus on home, and happy trails, all you folks in Greyhound-land. He’d
among the headlights, and Jamie shouted over the traffic noise, “Well I don’t care if it is far. Let’s us just go to Philadelphia. I never been there either. I never been any goddamn place.” “Now in my estimation,” Bill Houston said, “there just ain’t nothing in Philadelphia.” “Liberty Bell’s something, ain’t it? You going to tell me it’s just nothing, just because it’s in Philadelphia and you say there ain’t nothing there?” “The Liberty Bell ain’t nothing to do. Ain’t even anything to talk
prisoner’s quarters. Against the layer of newsprint taped up between their cells, Bill Houston saw the changing shadows of bars and the deformed silhouette of Richard Clay Wilson, the famous Negro child-murderer. He appeared to be down on the concrete floor, on his knees— “CROSSVADER!” he screamed. Now the flashlight held still, trained upon him in his cell. “CROSSVADER!” “What the fuck is shaking down?” the guard cried softly. “It’s kind of like praying,” Bill Houston said. “TAKE IT BACK!
could make. In the daylight Richard told Bill Houston, “I will not go to Jesus!” He embarrassed Bill Houston by his vehemence. “I am an alien from another planet. I was not meant to be saved.” “I admire your spunk,” Bill Houston admitted. “I just can’t stop when my spunk get hot,” Richard sang—words from “Disco Inferno,” most beloved of his stereo cassette tapes and one he played as often and as loudly as he himself could bear it. Beyond rare snatches of song and his occasional
individuals who deserved whatever fate they might receive, and to execute them informally, by stealth, was encouraged. But the CB-6 population had mellowed toward Richard, particularly as he outlasted others who were resentenced or transferred and became the longest resident of CB-6. Bill Houston knew all about him. It was Houston’s duty as a human being to hate this monster, this psychotic mutant born out of the always tragic mingling of separate races. But he was confused. He felt removed from