> Skip to content
About the book
  • Published: 19 February 2019
  • ISBN: 9781784708177
  • Imprint: Vintage
  • Format: Paperback
  • Pages: 224
  • RRP: $19.99

The Largesse of the Sea Maiden

Twenty-five years after Jesus’ Son, a haunting new collection of short stories on mortality and transcendence, from National Book Award winner and two-time Pulitzer Prize finalist Denis Johnson.

The Largesse of the Sea Maiden is the long-awaited new story collection from Denis Johnson, author of the groundbreaking, highly acclaimed Jesus’ Son. Written in the same luminous prose, this collection finds Johnson in new territory, contemplating mortality, the ghosts of the past, and the elusive and unexpected ways the mysteries of the universe assert themselves.

Finished shortly before Johnson’s death, this collection is the last word from a writer whose work will live on for many years to come.

  • Pub date: 19 February 2019
  • ISBN: 9781784708177
  • Imprint: Vintage
  • Format: Paperback
  • Pages: 224
  • RRP: $19.99

About the Author

Denis Johnson

Denis Johnson was the author of nine novels, one novella, two books of short stories, five collections of poetry, two collections of plays and one book of reportage. Among other honours, his novel Tree of Smoke won the 2007 National Book Award and was a finalist for the 2007 Pulitzer Prize, and Train Dreams was a finalist for the 2012 Pulitzer Prize.

Also by Denis Johnson

See all

Praise for The Largesse of the Sea Maiden

“In his lifetime Denis Johnson was far more highly regarded in America than in Britain… This stunning book – bleak, funny tender, despairing and ecstatic (sometimes all at the same time) – decisively proves that the Americans were right.”

James Walton, Daily Telegraph

“This posthumously published book of short stories is the long-awaited follow-up to Johnson’s Jesus’ Son (1992), perhaps the most influential and beloved volume of American short stories of the past three decades... One can say about this book what one narrator says about a collection of poems he loves: “They were the real thing, line after line of the real thing.””

Dwight Garner, New York Times, Critics' Top Books of 2018

“[W]ith his untimely death, Johnson’s canonisation as an American seer seems inevitable... The five longish pieces comprising this posthumous collection are all, to my mind, quite wonderful.”

James Lasdun, Guardian

“Now Johnson is dead... we should be sorry to have lost such a wise and compassionate guide to life's darkness, but thankful to have his magnificent books. Here is another of them.”

Chris Power, New Statesman

“The prose remains as deliriously alive as ever. In one story there is a rueful, lyrical, lovely paragraph that I hope is more than fictionally true because it suggests that Johnson enjoyed himself producing some of the greatest literary works of our age.”

Adam Foulds, Financial Times

“Ranging from hard-edged to thoughtful, the engaging tales in this posthumous collection offer one voice crying out from rehab and another parsing the bonds of prison life.”

Jeffrey Burke, Mail on Sunday

“He worked at a level different from the rest of us – a true master.”

Zadie Smith

“The God I want to believe in has a voice and sense of humor like Denis Johnson’s.”

Jonathan Franzen

“Our most poetic short story writer since Hemingway.”

George Saunders

“The great energy of his imagination was a fusion of honesty and seriousness, pain and laughter. His life was a thing of moment and urgency, pure and undistracted.”

Marilynne Robinson

“Prose of amazing power and stylishness.”

Philip Roth

“When Denis Johnson is justly praised for his voice, I always think, just the one? He has an eerie symphony at his command.”

Karen Russell

“Denis Johnson was and is and will continue to be one of our strongest writers. His work has an indigenous beat that marks it as unmistakably American.”

Don DeLillo

“Denis Johnson was and is, without question, significant and great.”

Michael Cunningham

“Everyone who reads Denis Johnson comes away thinking he has spoken directly to some wracked and ragged, yet transcendent, aspect of their own secret heart.”

Louise Erdrich

“His prose tiptoes a tightrope between peace and calamity.”

Anthony Doerr

“Nobody wrote with more brutality and mercy, more hilarity and grace. What a genius he was.”

Elizabeth McCracken

“[Denis Johnson’s] writing is life enhancing, like being suddenly hit by a marvellous trick of the light. I urge you to read this. I can’t imagine anyone with any kind of sensitivity to words or people not enjoying it.”

Jane Graham, Big Issue

“Blistering, brilliant.”

Jeffrey Eugenides

“A true American artist ... a revelator for this still new century.”

New York Times

“A dizzying mix of humour and near tragedy that leaves us unsure whether to laugh or weep… For too long, Denis Johnson was not sufficiently appreciated. A fine novelist and poet, as well as one of the best short story writers of his generation.”

John Burnside, Spectator

“An instant classic…A masterpiece of deep humanity and astonishing prose…. It's filled with Johnson's unparalleled ability to inject humor, profundity, and beauty—often all three—into the dark and the mundane alike. These characters have been pushed toward the edge; through their searches for meaning or clawing just to hold onto life, Johnson is able to articulate what it means to be alive, and to have hope.”

Publishers Weekly (starred review)

“Like a good rock song, a typical Denis Johnson sentence describes, with total precision, what an emotion feels like … Johnson has sometimes been compared to Ernest Hemingway for his creation of a distinctive American idiom.”

Jamie Fisher, Times Literary Supplement

“Denis Johnson was the best American writer of the past twenty-five years.”

New Republic

“He was the kind of writer who comes along once in a generation, if that often: a true original, in the same league as Melville and Whitman.”


“Here are stories that feel generously improvised but never haphazard, uncanny but earthy, reconciled to the passing of time but themselves out of time. Few books so relentlessly concerned with death feel so relentlessly alive. ”

Colin Barrett

“Denis Johnson writes short stories like no one has ever done before. He makes the normal electric; the everyday enormous. There is not a single word here that does not hit you square in the face and say: look, this is what it's about, this is what you need to know.”

Daisy Johnson

“Denis Johnson’s stories are astonishing… they dash between quicksilver wit and gallows humour, twinning the superficial with the profound so elegantly. His sentences are exquisite, often having the capacity to sock a sudden punch. The last story made me gasp.”

Kerry Andrew

“[An] absorbing collection of deceptively rambling, craftily casual tales ... Magical stuff.”

Dan Brotzel, Irish News **Book of the Week**

“Sometimes streetwise and tough, and always informal, light, elegant and miraculously tender.”

Gavin Corbett, Irish Times

“The late Denis Johnson is arguably the most influential American prose writer of the last thirty years ... and in the posthumously published The Largess of the Sea Maiden it is blindingly clear why.”

John Patrick McHugh, Totally Dublin

“The five darkly comic stories that comprise The Largesse of the Sea Maiden are befitting final testaments to [Johnson’s] wild originality... His sentences, like his plots, are full of gorgeous little shocks.”

Irish Independent, *The best reads of 2018: Our critics name their top picks*

Related titles