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Nobody Move is a novel written by Denis Johnson. Beginning in July 2008, Nobody Move appeared as a four-part serialized novel in Playboy before being published in book form in 2009. Incidentally, that veritable literary journal does a fine job summarising the story:

It maps a colliding and eliding of characters and agendas: a hapless gambler and sometimes barbershop singer trying to survive, a femme fatale with $2.3 million and her dignity to recover, a gangster lousy with vengeance fantasies, and a leggy nurse and Desert Storm vet looking for her own payday.

Need more than that? It's helpful to give a summary of the first chapter: Jimmy Lutz owes money, gets taken for a ride, and somewhere between A and C shoots the man who took him. He rides off and into a beautiful Indian woman, Anita Desilvera, whom drunkenly sleeps with him.

"Frankie Franklin, are you a loser?"
"Not When I'm lucky."
"When was a guy like you ever lucky?"

The word noir and comparisons with Hammett and Chandler have appeared a lot in reference to this book. That is somewhat helpful for contextualising plot, but in my opinion overstated. Still inaccurate, I think you'd get a better feel for the plot if I were to say that this is Bonnie and Clyde spending less time on a road trip and more time working out what the fuck they're doing.


Some comments: First off I'm a big Johnson fan and to date have read most of his other stuff. Secondly I am aware of how the world works. Knowing that this novel first appeared in Playboy does mean certain things. I don't know what they are but I am sure of them.

It feels easy and it lacks the complexity found in his other works. Particular themes and motifs dear to Johnson's heart do come through - those who live on the fringes, and the losers and fuck-ups that trail around them - but with far less introspection or reflection. For this reason many of the character moulds familiar to Johnson's readers can be mistaken for members of a more common cast. Take a look above at Playboy's summary of the story - it's a story you could imagine having seen a million times before. Perhaps you can even imagine the movie.

If you'll follow my meanderings a bit further I'll soon get there. The summary I've quoted misses the point. That's cool. The characters are doing their best - they were born into a foreign world, made mistakes, and witnessed their own flaws through imperfect eyes. And so there's something beautiful about Johnson typing words between a double-page spread and innuendo peppered letters to the editor: if ever there was an author who would love you for your life's failure to live up to the possibilities manifested by Playboy's glossy pages, it'd be Denis Johnson.


References: Wikipedia, LA Times blog (which have some interesting stuff), and of course the novel itself. Oh, and Playboy.

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