Tree of Smoke by Denis Johnson
A Novel

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Synopsis

Once upon a time there was a war . . . and a young American who thought of himself as the Quiet American and the Ugly American, and who wished to be neither, who wanted instead to be the Wise American, or the Good American, but who eventually came to witness himself as the Real American and finally as simply the Fucking American. That’s me.

This is the story of Skip Sands—spy-in-training, engaged in Psychological Operations against the Vietcong—and the disasters that befall him thanks to his famous uncle, a war hero known in intelligence circles simply as the Colonel. This is also the story of the Houston brothers, Bill and James, young men who drift out of the Arizona desert into a war in which the line between disinformation and delusion has blurred away. In its vision of human folly, and its gritty, sympathetic portraits of men and women desperate for an end to their loneliness, whether in sex or death or by the grace of God, this is a story like nothing in our literature.

Tree of Smoke is Denis Johnson’s first full-length novel in nine years, and his most gripping, beautiful, and powerful work to date.

Tree of Smoke is the 2007 National Book Award Winner for Fiction.
 

About Denis Johnson

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Denis Johnson is the author of six novels, three collections of poetry, and one book of reportage. His novel Tree of Smoke was the 2007 winner of the National Book Award.
 
Published January 1, 2007 by Picador. 720 pages
Genres: Mystery, Thriller & Suspense, War, Literature & Fiction, History, Business & Economics, Law & Philosophy. Fiction

Unrated Critic Reviews for Tree of Smoke

Kirkus Reviews

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Tree of Smoke is less concerned with any individual war than with the nature of war, and with the essence of war novels.

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The New York Times

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Denis Johnson’s wildly ambitious new novel, “Tree of Smoke,” reads like a whacked-out, hallucinogenic variation on such whacked-out, hallucinogenic Vietnam classics as Francis Ford Coppola’s “Apocalypse Now,” Michael Herr’s “Dispatches,” Robert Stone’s “Dog Soldiers” and Stephen Wright’s “Meditat...

Aug 31 2007 | Read Full Review of Tree of Smoke: A Novel

The New York Times

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Denis Johnson’s new novel is a massive thing and something like a masterpiece; it’s the product of an extraordinary writer in full stride.

Sep 02 2007 | Read Full Review of Tree of Smoke: A Novel

The Guardian

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Tree of Smoke by Denis Johnson Buy it from the Guardian bookshop Search the Guardian bookshop In 600-odd pages of dense, lyrical, perplexing prose, Denis Johnson gr...

Aug 23 2008 | Read Full Review of Tree of Smoke: A Novel

The Guardian

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Tree of Smoke by Denis Johnson Buy it from the Guardian bookshop Search the Guardian bookshop Skip Sands is an undercover CIA agent working for Colonel Francis Xavi...

Sep 21 2008 | Read Full Review of Tree of Smoke: A Novel

The Guardian

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Trung, a North Vietnamese - who once tried to assassinate the colonel - is being recruited as a double agent, but, at the same time, Trung's assassination is being plotted by the same guy - a German - who killed a priest with a blow pipe in the Philippines, back in 1963.

Oct 27 2007 | Read Full Review of Tree of Smoke: A Novel

Publishers Weekly

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Johnson\x92s tale of shadowy soldiers and spooks irrevocably changed by the unending war in Southeast Asia is rendered by Patton in a drill sergeant\x92s muscular whisper, complete with carefully rendered impressions of characters\x97American, Filipino and Vietnamese\x97some of which verge on par...

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BC Books

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The novel builds around the figure of Francis Xavier Sands – known to all as “the Colonel” – a hard drinking, renegade CIA agent, and his wary if loyal nephew Skip Sands.

Oct 21 2007 | Read Full Review of Tree of Smoke: A Novel

Book Reporter

Other novels of the Vietnam War have been moving, tragic, heartrending and absurd – as much so, perhaps, as the war (any war?) itself.

Jan 24 2011 | Read Full Review of Tree of Smoke: A Novel

Entertainment Weekly

All apologies to Denis Johnson, then, because after reading his seventh novel, Tree of Smoke, that's the first word that comes to mind.

Sep 07 2007 | Read Full Review of Tree of Smoke: A Novel

Suite 101

Rhoda and Samuel each have problems but together they could be successful..

Aug 25 2010 | Read Full Review of Tree of Smoke: A Novel

Bookmarks Magazine

John Repp NY Times Book Review 4.5 of 5 Stars "Denis Johnson is a true American artist, and Tree of Smoke is a tremendous book, a strange entertainment, very long but very fast, a great whirly ride that starts out sad and gets sadder and sadder, loops unpredictably out and around, and then l...

Oct 05 2007 | Read Full Review of Tree of Smoke: A Novel

TimesUnion.com

Easily the best audiobook I listened to in 2007, “Tree of Smoke” has been called a Vietnam War book, but its reach is much deeper – into the very twisted psychology of America’s place in the world.

Jan 08 2008 | Read Full Review of Tree of Smoke: A Novel

Alibi

Here are men and women hollowed out by domestic loss ( The Name of the World ), drug use ( Jesus’ Son ) and failed suicide attempts ( Resuscitation of a Drowned Man ), not to mention the end of the world ( Fiskadoro ).

Dec 06 2007 | Read Full Review of Tree of Smoke: A Novel

Reader Rating for Tree of Smoke
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