Denis Johnson’s “Emergency

Denis Johnson








This story can be found here:

In this story, another first person narrator reflects back on a time he worked in the emergency room. There’s a lot to admire about the story – voice, reliability, humor (dark though it be). Like “Drinking Coffee Elswhere”, it has a very carefully designed structure, which I encourage you to comment on below.

But the thing I want you to watch closely as you read is Johnson’s use of dialogue. For dialogue to work well, it should do two things – sound authentic, and move the story forward. How does the dialogue here do these two things? Is it effective?

Also, notice how in at least one section, the dialogue is disharmonious, which is to say that the two speakers are both talking, but not really to each other. What is the effect of this?

Also feel free to post any other comments, observations, reactions you have about the stories. Shoot for 250-300 words.

Please post your comments below no later than 2:00 on Thursday. Then, stay online between 2-3:30, and respond to at least two of these posts.



In the film version of JESUS’ SON (the story collection in which “Emergency” appears, Denis Johnson plays the man with a knife stuck in his eye.


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