Train Dreams: A Novella

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Train Dreams: A Novella

by Denis Johnson

Picador | May 22, 2012 | Trade Paperback |

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A New York Times Notable Book

An Esquire Best Book of 2011

A New Yorker Favorite Book of 2011

A Los Angeles Times Favorite Book of 2011

Denis Johnson's Train Dreams is an epic in miniature, one of his most evocative and poignant fictions. It is the story of Robert Grainier, a day laborer in the American West at the start of the twentieth century---an ordinary man in extraordinary times. Buffeted by the loss of his family, Grainer struggles to make sense of this strange new world. As his story unfolds, we witness both his shocking personal defeats and the radical changes that transform America in his lifetime. Suffused with the history and landscapes of the American West, this novella by the National Book Award--winning author of Tree of Smoke captures the disappearance of a distinctly American way of life.

Format: Trade Paperback

Dimensions: 128 Pages, 4.33 × 7.09 × 0 in

Published: May 22, 2012

Publisher: Picador

Language: English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10: 1250007658

ISBN - 13: 9781250007650

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– More About This Product –

Train Dreams: A Novella

by Denis Johnson

Format: Trade Paperback

Dimensions: 128 Pages, 4.33 × 7.09 × 0 in

Published: May 22, 2012

Publisher: Picador

Language: English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10: 1250007658

ISBN - 13: 9781250007650

About the Book

Johnson's book is an epic in miniature, one of his most evocative and poignant fictions. It is the story of Robert Grainier, a day laborer in the American West, who struggles to make sense of this strange new world.

Read from the Book

Train Dreams   1 I n the summer of 1917 Robert Grainier took part in an attempt on the life of a Chinese laborer caught, or anyway accused of, stealing from the company stores of the Spokane International Railway in the Idaho Panhandle. Three of the railroad gang put the thief under restraint and dragged him up the long bank toward the bridge under construction fifty feet above the Moyea River. A rapid singsong streamed from the Chinaman voluminously. He shipped and twisted like a weasel in a sack, lashing backward with his one free fist at the man lugging him by the neck. As this group passed him, Grainier, seeing them in some distress, lent assistance and found himself holding one of the culprit''s bare feet. The man facing him, Mr. Sears, of Spokane International''s management, held the prisoner almost uselessly by the armpit and was the only one of them, besides the incomprehensible Chinaman, to talk during the hardest part of their labors: "Boys, I''m damned if we ever see the top of this heap!" Then we''re hauling him all the way? was the question Grainier wished to ask, but he thought it better to save his breath for the struggle. Sears laughed once, his face pale with fatigue and horror. They all went down in the dust and got righted, went down again, the Chinaman speaking in tongues and terrifying the four of them to the point that whatever they may have had in mind at the outset, he was a deader now. Nothing would do but to toss him off the trestle. They came a
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From the Publisher

A New York Times Notable Book

An Esquire Best Book of 2011

A New Yorker Favorite Book of 2011

A Los Angeles Times Favorite Book of 2011

Denis Johnson's Train Dreams is an epic in miniature, one of his most evocative and poignant fictions. It is the story of Robert Grainier, a day laborer in the American West at the start of the twentieth century---an ordinary man in extraordinary times. Buffeted by the loss of his family, Grainer struggles to make sense of this strange new world. As his story unfolds, we witness both his shocking personal defeats and the radical changes that transform America in his lifetime. Suffused with the history and landscapes of the American West, this novella by the National Book Award--winning author of Tree of Smoke captures the disappearance of a distinctly American way of life.

About the Author

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.

Editorial Reviews

"A small masterpiece...Johnson is as skilled as ever at balancing menace against ecstasy, civilization against wilderness....Train Dreams might be the most powerful thing Johnson has ever written."---Anthony Doerr, The New York Times Book Review
"A triumph of spare writing...A gem of a story, set in rough times, in a tough terrain, and tenderly told."---Bob Minzesheimer, USA Today

"The visionary, miraculous element in Johnson's deceptively tough realism makes beautiful appearances in this book….The natural world of the American West is examined, logged, and frequently transfigured."---James Wood, The New Yorker


"A nearly perfect short novel from the most essential writer of his generation."---David Ulin, Los Angeles Times

Bookclub Guide

Throughout his award-winning career, Denis Johnson has brought us an endlessly fascinating cast of characters: sinners, saviors, and desperate souls caught in between. In Train Dreams, he presents a provocative portrait of a man who comes to know both excruciating hardship and quiet wonder in the American West in the first half of the twentieth century. A day laborer, Robert Grainier is on the front line in the modernization of the frontier, opening a rugged landscape to railway service, shoulder to shoulder with teams of countless men like him. Their world is divided between those who survive against astounding odds and those who succumb. Grainier is a survivor in all senses of the word: when he loses his young family, he returns to his solitary ways and struggles to make sense of the tragedy, even as he continues to feel the spiritual presence of his wife and daughter.

An epic in miniature, Train Dreams captures a singular chapter in the American story, set in an otherworldly landscape that has the potential to haunt anyone who attempts to subdue it. As we witness history alongside Grainier, we are forced to weigh the human toll against the awe-inspiring arrival of "civilization" as ordinary men eke out a living in extraordinary times. The result is a poignant, illuminating novella from one of the greatest storytellers of his generation.

This guide is designed to enhance your discussion of Train Dreams. We hope that the following questions and topics will enrich your reading of this finely honed tribute to the human experience.

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