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The Largesse of the Sea Maiden  By  cover art

The Largesse of the Sea Maiden

By: Denis Johnson
Narrated by: Nick Offerman,Michael Shannon,Dermot Mulroney,Will Patton
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Publisher's summary

Twenty-five years after Jesus’ Son, a haunting new collection of short stories on mortality and transcendence, from National Book Award winner and two-time Pulitzer Prize finalist Denis Johnson

The Largesse of the Sea Maiden is the long-awaited new story collection from Denis Johnson. Written in the luminous prose that made him one of the most beloved and important writers of his generation, this collection finds Johnson in new territory, contemplating the ghosts of the past and the elusive and unexpected ways the mysteries of the universe assert themselves.

Finished shortly before Johnson’s death, this collection is the last word from a writer whose work will live on for many years to come.

Audiobook Table of Contents:

“The Largesse of the Sea Maiden”, read by Nick Offerman 

“The Starlight on Idaho”, read by Michael Shannon 

“Strangler Bob”, read by Dermot Mulroney 

“Triumph over the Grave”, read by Will Patton 

“Doppelgänger, Poltergeist”, read by Liev Schreiber

Advance praise for The Largesse of the Sea Maiden:

“Mesmerizing...psychologically revelatory, spiritually inquisitive, and grimly funny stories...Johnson will be remembered and revered as an incisive storyteller fluent in the comedy and tragedy of human confusion and the transcendence of compassion.” [Booklist (starred review)]

“American literature suffered a serious loss with Johnson’s death. These final stories underscore what we’ll miss.... Johnson is best known for his writing about hard-luck cases - alcoholics, thieves, world-weary soldiers. But this final collection ranges up and down the class ladder; for Johnson, a sense of mortality and a struggle to make sense of our lives knew no demographic boundaries.” [Kirkus Reviews (starred review)]

“An instant classic... A masterpiece of deep humanity and astonishing prose... It’s filled with Johnson's unparalleled ability to inject humor, profundity, and beauty - often all three - into the dark and the mundane alike. These characters have been pushed toward the edge; through their searches for meaning or clawing just to hold on to life, Johnson is able to articulate what it means to be alive, and to have hope.” (Publishers Weekly)

©2018 Denis Johnson (P)2018 Random House Audio

Critic reviews

"The audio version of Denis Johnson's posthumous short story collection has an eye-popping cast of celebrity narrators. Actors Nick Offerman, Michael Shannon, Dermot Mulroney, Will Patton, and Liev Schreiber are simply terrific." (AudioFile)

“These four stories rank with Johnson’s best work, but the title story, a catalogue of singular moments related by a man who tells us he’s passing through life as if it were a masquerade, ranks with the best fiction published by any American writer during this short century.” (New York)

“A posthumous masterpiece.... With this book, Johnson has only cemented his status as one of his generation’s greatest writers.... Each story in Largesse is weighted by an astonishing humanity, a generosity of spirit that’s evened out by lyrical dissections of time’s passage and the mysteries of connection.... Here’s an author turning toward the past, conjuring up the ghosts of those he’s loved and lost, writing of wild experiences with affectionate abandon. Few have linked themselves between the reader and the page so intimately - so cosmically - as he does here.” (Entertainment Weekly

Featured Article: The Best Short Story Audiobooks to Immerse Yourself In Now


Short stories have had a huge impact on the canon of great literature. In fact, some of history's most revered novelists—Ernest Hemingway, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, and Louisa May Alcott among them—wrote short stories, which make excellent introductions to their work. Plus, these bite-size listens are the perfect way to get a big dose of literary inspiration even when you’re short on time. To get you started, we’ve compiled a list of listens.

Editor's Pick

All-star narrators and a master storyteller
"Denis Johnson’s stories are so refined, and transition so effortlessly, that there is often no noticeable distinction between the emotions they elicit. You might find yourself laughing at death, or worried for one of Johnson’s characters' untimely success. In this subtle way Johnson shocks his listeners into what I would guess is awareness, or clarity. At the very least, you can tell a book is good when it gets this many all-star narrators (Nick Offerman, Michael Shannon, Dermot Mulroney, Will Patton, and Liev Schreiber). They leave no stone of Johnson’s lyrical prowess unturned or unpolished."
Michael D., Audible Editor

What listeners say about The Largesse of the Sea Maiden

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His Tumulus of Stunning Sirenic Stories


Once in a while, I know my lexicon is insufficient to give a book all due accolades. That, or I'm speechless from its hypnotic effect, or I'm worried I don't have time to write a review succinct enough that a potential reader will read it and be persuaded to read the book ASAP. Right now it's all of the above, so I borrow from others who've more experience and who were paid to review this Absolutely Brilliant book. And thus, the below are the best and truest blurbs from reviews I read of 'The Largesse of the Sea Maiden: Stories.'

Sam Sacks, WSJ: 'Johnson’s stories tread a crooked path through illness, addiction, criminality, mania and simple existential confusion. His gift is to extract the beauty in all that brokenness, like the painters who pulled holy light out of the wounds of martyrs.'

Lincoln Michel, BOMB: 'My god, that voice. Johnson somehow manages to be both conversational and poetic, simultaneously heartbreaking and hilarious... [with] an astonishing power to turn from one emotion to another in a line or two. His transitions between stories, sections, and paragraphs are worth the study of every aspiring fiction writer. [This is a] terrific book of heart, humanity, and humor. Read and treasure it. It is a final gift from a master.'

Maureen Corrigan, NPR: 'Like those direct addresses to his future readers that Whitman scatters throughout Leaves of Grass, Johnson, in these stories, anticipates talking across the abyss that separates the quick from the dead... [The collection] affirms literature's promise to believers, the gift of eternal voice.'

Publishers Weekly: 'a masterpiece of deep humanity and astonishing prose … an instant classic. It's filled with Johnson's unparalleled ability to inject humor, profundity, and beauty—often all three—into the dark and the mundane alike.'

Kevin Zambrano, The Rumpus: '[The characters in this collection] seem to see, as Wallace Stevens put it, 'Nothing that is not there and the nothing that is.' Perhaps this point of view comes from proximity to death.''


The narrators are superb and each read his story with verve and pitch-perfection.


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7 people found this helpful

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RIP Denis Johnson

Amazing narration, amazing work. This a great collection of stories from a late master of the form. For fans of Denis Johnson you’ll find something familiar yet truly original.

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Could have been better

I loved the writing. Great book. However, I really wish they would have just let Will Patton read the whole thing. Offerman, Shannon, and Mulroney's performances were competent, but Patton's readings, and in particular his readings of Johnson's books are among the best I know. It's definitely worth a listen; was just hoping it could be as good as Train Dreams or Jesus's Son.

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A master of fiction--an all-star cast of narrators

Denis Johnson passed last year, but left us with this one last beautiful example of his wonderful writing. His stories are so refined, and transition so effortlessly, that there is often no noticeable distinction between the emotions they elicit. You might find yourself laughing at death, or worried for one of Johnson’s characters' untimely success. In this subtle way Johnson shocks his listeners into what I would guess is awareness, or clarity. At the very least, you can tell a book is good when it gets this many all-star narrators (Nick Offerman, Michael Shannon, Dermot Mulroney, Will Patton, and Liev Schreiber). They leave no stone of Johnson’s lyrical prowess unturned or unpolished.

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Beautiful, elegiac

Wonderful stories and narration. The ending piece is especially haunting. The stories work so well together.

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Wonderful Writing

It’s taken me too long to discover Denis Johnson, clearly.
What a wonderful wonderful writer. I love these stories and the characters that walk around in them.

I’m going back for more.

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Eloquently pathetic.

What an incredible waste of time and money. The best narrators in the business admirably perform a work of absolute babbling idiocy. If there were ever a book I wish I could return for a refund of my audible credit this would be it.

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Punch In the Gut

I am not a huge fan of American Lit. as genre, I don't hate it or really even dislike it, as it is in my reading experience particularly brutal. Our lives, others lives, seen through the lens of an amazingly talented writer can reveal truths to ourselves about us, be they conscious or not, that are uncomfortable. And if not ourselves being stripped down in some way it can be an almost certainty that it will expose a nerve and bang on it with the thought of someone else from your past or present. Denis does that here, and it's done tragically and beautifully. I am living my life and am aware of my demons so they are not something I need to revisit in any capacity because they are there with me in uneasy truce.

Still, the writing was just top notch. And the performances were also great. Liev on the final story in particular and Nick Offerman on the opening were my favorites. If you like Am. Lit or just read it on occasion you should find something in here you like.

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Difficult to follow some of the stories but entertaining

I did not realize these were short stories until after I purchased the book. My favorite chapter and the one that I will likely return to often is chapter 2. I am a group leader in a behavioral health hospital and that chapter had rolling with laughter! I would love more of chapter 2 please! All the performances were excellent!

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Love or hate Denis Johnson?

"Train Dreams" is one of my favorite novellas. "Tree of Smoke," "Jesus' Son," and this book I couldn't get past the first few chapters. The writing is good in places but the characters are so unappealing and the stuff that happens is so awful, these books are just depressing.

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