By Margot Mifflin
Updated January 08, 1993 at 05:00 AM EST

A work of spare beauty and almost religious intensity, this first collection of stories by the author of Resuscitation of a Hanged Man is nothing less than spectacular. Narrated by a recovering alcoholic prone to Valhallan delusions and set primarily in Iowa, Jesus’ Son features drifters and dopeheads who have spent their lives on bar stools, ”guilty and frightened, because there was something wrong with us, and we didn’t know what it was.” Johnson conjures a world of bong-water banality that periodically spills over into sublime hallucination. For all its anomie, the book closes on a note of genuine faith and promise. A