Fortune Smiles: Stories
Johnson’s book The Orphan Master’s Son, about North Korea, won a Puliitzer Prize, and I couldn’t wait to read it. This current book is a collection of stories; only one deals with the Koreas. In the tradition of Shirley Jackson and Joyce Carol Oates, Johnson is specific and horrific at the same time. While all of his stories are grounded in realistic settings and dialogue, the sum of the parts are exceptional. When a reader discovers a writer who is exceptional, the whole world seems to open up. Johnson currently teaches creative writing at Stanford and he is eminently qualified to do so.
There are six stories in this collection and the reader will surely pause between them to catch his breath; they are breathtaking. Nirvana tells the story of a paralyzed woman and her techie husband who transcend their pain and confusion through technology. Fortune Smiles is set in post Katrina New Orleans. Its main character drives a delivery truck and tries to care for a young child who may or may not be his legitimate son. The reader asks if this man who is adrift can possibly care for this proverbial toddler. These stories and truly imaginative and well crafted.