A writer friend of mine entrusted his copy of Johnson's Jesus' Son to me and normally when someone lends me a book I think, "thank you for this gift I will keep as a paperweight or ashtray for the next three years and never read". Lucky for the both of us, I cracked the book and fell in love with his odd prose. Anyone who can make you laugh and break your heart in the same story is truly gifted––he learned from Carver, but lacks the baggage.

After I became aware of his work, I went to see king and queen of Rock™ Chris Brokaw and Thalia Zedek play a house show, the show taking place at my friend Megan Hendricks' house. Megan's husband, who passed away a few years ago, was the inimitable Karl Hendricks who is both a great musician and writer.

Halfway through their set they slid in a cover of Karl's 'The Night Has No Eyes' - hearing an interpretation of my friends song mere feet from the spot he passed had me feeling like I was going to pass out. I turned to hug Megan, was dizzy and drunk, and when I turned around my eyes could not focus. When I regained some semblance of 'balance', my first sight was the massive spine of Johnson's Tree Of Smoke. A few weeks later on a trip to buy some records, I told that story and a friend working there gave me his copy.

The book is a mess - the first 200 pages or so do not feel like Johnson's novel. I was as lost in the abyss as each character was lost in the jungle, struggling to find purpose in the war or their own personal war. It took a flight where I smuggled vodka on board and drank while on cold medicine for me to endure and get over the hump and into the heart of the story. The plot lines that run concentric to the novels main theme only further obscure the plot. Am I in a labyrinth Vietcong tunnel deep in the earth? Am I lost in a metaphor of the deceased Doctors ear model? Am I purposefully obscured in a tree-of-smoke-mushroom-cloud detached from the United State's purpose in the war? Luckily there are no concrete answers, scant few get out alive, but Johnson's masterful understanding of the human psyche and how people are warped but ultimately adapt to their new realities made this essential reading.

200 pages in I was wishing it was over, at page 614 I was wishing it would never end. If that's not a big fucking endorsement, I can't imagine what other personal hell would propel you into the quagmire.

"The abyss is full
of reality, the abyss experiences itself, the
abyss
is alive"

The Gotobeds' new album, Debt Begins at 30, is due out on May 31st via Sub Pop. Watch the video for 'Twin Cities' below.