Californium by R. Dean Johnson

The Live Oak Review

Review by Paul Fuhr

51fpr5w-dwl-_sx332_bo1204203200_ (Plume Books, 2016)

There’s a moment midway through R. Dean Johnson’s Californium (Plume Books, 2016) where the novel’s teenage protagonists are comparing the logo of their new punk band to the iconic ones from the legendary bands before them: “Pretty soon, all we’ll need is the top part. Like how people know it’s the Dead Kennedys just by seeing the tomahawk or the Clash when all they see is the guy bent over, smashing his guitar.” It’s a moment that speaks to how emblems, symbols and patterns embed themselves in our consciousness and stay there, triggering instant recall upon seeing them. This is also true of Johnson’s writing: the longer you stay steeped in his words (SoCal, circa 1980), the longer it stays with you and the faster you identify with it. Johnson’s characters—Reece, Keith and Treat—join forces against the headwind of adolescence through the shared…

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2 thoughts on “Californium by R. Dean Johnson

  1. David E. Aeh

    I saw your book in a bookstore in Columbus Ohio, loved the cover, saw that you taught at EKU and realized I had to read it, and I loved it. My oldest son just graduated from EKU and my youngest son is in his sophomore year. I’m trying to get them to read your book but “time” is so limited in their universes. Anyway I just wanted to let you know that even us old guys can related to the story, especially since I’m an ol punk rocker from the 80’s. I will be watching for more of your work in the future. Thanks for a heartwarming novel. I miss reading it already. David E. AEH


    1. David: I can’t tell you how cool it is to hear you stumbled upon CALIFORNIUM and Reece and the boys played for you. Thanks for taking the time to read it. Thanks for taking the time to share with me what you thought, too. You really made my week.

      Could I ask which store it was that had copies of CALIFORNIUM? I’m planning a trip to Columbus in the fall (my wife has a reading at Ohio State) and I want to set up a reading for myself while I’m there, so it usually helps if the store already knows the book. It’s especially helpful it they’ve sold a few too, so thanks yet again.

      All best,
      Robert (that’s the R in the R. Dean)


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