“Everywhere Home: A Life in Essays” by Fenton Johnson— Essays on Life

Johnson, Fenton. “Everywhere Home: A Life in Essays”, Sarabande, 2017.

Essays on Life

Amos Lassen

Fenton Johnson’s “Everywhere Home” is part retrospective and part memoir. He explores sexuality, religion, geography, the AIDS crisis, and more. We go with him from the hills of Kentucky to those of San Francisco, from the streets of Paris to the sidewalks of Calcutta. As he travels, he investigates questions large and small such as the relationship between artists and museums, a New Guinean display of shrunken heads and the difference between empiricism and intuition.

This collection draws together essays that originally appeared in “Harper’s”, “The New York Times”, “All Things Considered” and elsewhere and new work. He writes from the front lines of the AIDS epidemic, from Burning Man, from monasteries both near and far and his subjects range from Oscar Wilde to censorship in journalism to Kentucky basketball. What is really amazing is the unity between the essays and how Johnson can explain the world around him in such beautiful language. We sense the storyteller in him especially when writing about the desire to belong. We also become very aware of the different kinds of human pain and the hope that comes out of them.

Johnson has far-ranging and engaging interests that are both personal and academic interests and he is glad to be alive and he celebrates that. If you have ever read any of his other works you know exactly what I am speaking about. Johnson writes in a simple and straightforward style and there is beauty in that. Because his perspective differs from others, he brings something new to every topic he writes about.

Some of his essays are clearly autobiographical, in some he writes using literary criticism and in some he is a cultural commentator. In all of then he is Fenton Johnson with his personal presence and in that he lets us feel that he is writing directly to us. He is able to demonstrate that “his gay sensibility is just part of normal, ordinary human awareness that is deepened and intensified by his gay sensibility. He has something special to offer.”

The essays show a great deal about Johnson, himself as well as about today’s society and culture. Johnson is honest and vulnerable because he is human. He is always intelligent, interesting and provocative.

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