David L. Ulin at the LA Times:
This territory of anarchy and madness — let's call it derangement — is one to which Johnson has returned throughout his career. His 1992 collection “Jesus' Son,” which sits on a short shelf of the finest American fiction of the last quarter-century, traces in 11 spare, linked stories the experiences of a recovering drug addict trying to find a place in an incomprehensible world.
“Tree of Smoke,” which won a 2007 National Book Award, uses Vietnam as setting and metaphor, portraying derangement on a national scale.
“I follow world events,” Johnson explains, “but I'm not obsessed with politics, and that's probably because — it's occurred to me more than once — as a white North American I find things on this planet ordered pretty much in my favor. But as a storyteller I'm drawn to realistic, contemporary situations and to figures caught up in danger and chaos.”