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2015: Everywhere Home

by Fenton Johnson


Fenton Johnson’s questions explore small and large subject matter: What’s the relationship between artists and museums, illuminated in a New Guinean display of shrunken heads? What’s the difference between empiricism and intuition? His wanderings include the hills of Kentucky and San Francisco, Paris streets, Calcutta’s crowded sidewalks, the AIDS epidemic, and monasteries of all persuasions.

Fenton Johnson is the author of the novels The Man Who Loved Birds, Scissors, Paper, Rock, and Crossing the River, and the nonfiction books Keeping Faith and Geography of the Heart. Johnson has received fellowships from the Guggenheim Foundation and the National Endowment for the Arts. He writes regularly for Harper’s Magazine, and is a professor in the creative writing programs at the University of Arizona and Spalding University.


“In this collection of 26 essays, Johnson contemplates questions of identity, belonging, and belief. With a deft hand and trained ear for storytelling, he explores growing up Catholic in Kentucky, the complex nature of same-gender eros, and the desire to belong. His work is most poignant when he’s bearing witness to the plague years of the AIDS crisis and its effects on the social and artistic networks of so many LGBTQ people. In the collection’s most moving pieces, he reckons with grief after his lover dies of AIDS-related complications. ‘From understanding grows compassion; from compassion grows real, enduring, life-affirming change,’ writes Johnson. These essays trust in the power of communication to build the capacity for change.”
—Publishers Weekly

“In taut, sometimes-tense prose, Johnson shows us so many varieties of human pain as well as many glimmers of hope.”
—Kirkus Review

“Fenton Johnson has, for four decades and counting, been a writer of exceptional talent, and even more exceptional warmth. He is the kind of clear-eyed observer who is able to integrate his deep knowledge of faith and philosophy into his own perspective, his own experiences. . . .Johnson connects everything with his own hopeful worldview, a deceivingly simple one: the world is a hard and often cruel place, but in the lowest of moments of our past and those we’ve yet to encounter, there is always love–clear and open-minded, big and small–to lead us forward. . . .The author never settles for cliché or platitude, but instead grasps the full span of life’s emotional output–the good, the bad, and the utterly painful that he himself is a product of–and manages, beautifully, to derive hope.”
—East Bay Review

“Reading this rich, varied essay collection . . . is a little like following a postmodern teaching peripatetic: it wanders, it tells stories, it stops occasionally to observe, it muses. . . . From the nature of art, the nature of beauty, to the meaning of Burning Man, Tina Turner’s sensuality, and monks in contemporary society, Johnson’s interests are far-ranging and engaging. Both personal and academic, they’re the product of a man who celebrates life through words.”
—Arizona Daily Star

“The essays are remarkably cohesive despite their collective span of more than twenty-five years, in large part because of Johnson’s voice, which is that of a sage elder, a mystic who easily traverses and knits the secular and the spiritual.”
—The Pleiades Book Review

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