Jeffrey N. Johnson, Novelist                                            



The Hunger Artist has been named a finalist for the Library of Virginia's annual People's Choice Award for fiction in 2015. Voting will be open between May 1 and June 30th in libraries, bookstores or online. Other nominees include Donna Andrews, John Grisham, Lydia Netzer and Martha Woodroof.

Reviews of The Hunger Artist:
    "Elegantly composed descriptions -- clearly personal, wrought with care and urgency -- of the legacies and landscapes of small-town Virginia, the hot desperations of destitute Florida and, (striking a particular chord with me), a watercolor-ish, resigned end-game through countrysides and coastals near my own stomping grounds, lend Johnson's "The Hunger Artist" an emotionally tactile and deeply authentic stage-set upon which main characters Carl, Miriam, and Annaliese struggle against forces within and without in alternate pursuit of the past, the future, and pure, torrid escape...for whatever version of freedom awaits on the other side. Deploying tight, organic dialogue, Johnson remains in command of his characters while allowing them space to roam beyond cliche or convenience, which, in concert with his well-drawn senses of space, imbues a sort of realist, cinematic quality that carries the reader down the I-90, head on a swivel, until the very last sad sentence." - Nick Barnes

    "Once I began reading Jeffrey N. Johnson's The Hunger Artist, I had the book in my hand every free moment until I finished it. Yet it is no page turner in the usual sense; it is not a book to be hungrily consumed, discarded and forgotten as soon as it is read. It is a beautifully crafted novel, with the heft and substance of a classic.
    Part of the power of the book lies in Johnson's vividly evoked habitats and landscapes. The outward world of the novel is solid, rendered in rich detail that often shines a light on the inward lives--the sufferings, longings, frailties and obsessions--of the two central characters, Carl and Miriam. It is these sufferings, longings, frailties and obsessions that drive the plot.
    Each of the two adult characters is deeply wounded and, in one way or another, obsessed. Carl's parents were both killed in auto accident when he was a teenager, a tragedy for which he feels responsible. In his early twenties Carl was left at the altar by Miriam, a victim of sexual assault in her adolescence. Now in his thirties, Carl, engages in a quixotic quest to "save" Miriam, who is unsuccessfully battling her ex-husband's attempts to gain full custody of their young daughter, Annaliese.
    It is easy to become impatient with both of the central characters. Carl's involvement with Miriam seems increasingly crazy, even self-destructive, though his deepening bond with Annaliese may explain what seem to me extraordinary sacrifices he makes to help a woman who does not love him. Miriam's self-destructive behavior ramps up as she battles not only her affluent ex-husband but a corrupt judge.
    Difficulty relentlessly compounds difficulty for both Carl and Miriam. As I approached the end of the novel, I felt that nothing good could happen in the few pages that remained. Yet the author has paved way for some magic--and I stress it is literary magic, not trickery. The novel, for me, had a profoundly satisfying ending. I will not say more." - Diane Bonds

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Read my interview in The Sewanee Review

(Last modified on May 1st, 2015 by jnj)

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