‘Out On Bail’ by Denis Johnson

Out On Bail by Denis Johnson, 1992

The magic trick:

Portraying the bar as having a constant drunken haze time warp effect

The overdose bit here didn’t impress, surprise, or affect me.


Generally speaking, this is one of the least exciting stories in the Jesus’ Son collection.

But there is a part early on that really sparkles. It’s not so much a “part” as the overall philosophy or concept of the story.

The narrator describes the bar where he and his fellow addicts hang out in a haze of confusion, where tomorrow might be today and today might be yesterday. It’s a neatly done effect, both showing and telling how life in such a state blurs into semi-nonsense.

And that’s quite a trick on Johnson’s part.

The selection:

There were many moments in the Vine like that one – where you might think today was yesterday, and yesterday was tomorrow, and so on. Because we all believed we were tragic, and we drank. We had that helpless, destined feeling. We would die with handcuffs on. We would be put a stop to, and it wouldn’t be our fault. So we imagined. And yet we were always being found innocent for ridiculous reasons.

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