Monday, October 5, 2009

From the Favorites: Joyce Johnson, Minor Characters

While I’m away from blogging, I’m sharing some of my favorite books from my bookshelf of “signed books.”

From Minor Characters, a memoir by Joyce Johnson, who dated Jack Kerouac as a young girl in the 1950s; an important glimpse into what it was like to be a female writer amidst all those men:

“The snapshot is in a book now. Four young men on the Columbia campus on a day in 1945. Early spring, maybe, because the coats of three of them are open at the collar and the tree in the background is bare. They’re boys, really.

“As I’ve grown older, the figures in the photo have grown younger. They’re dressed with that startling formality of the period that seems peculiarly innocent now. Short hair, long overcoats. Burroughs is even wearing a black bowler, a sort of British-banker effect—a deliberate costume. He’s absenting himself in his disguise. Hal Chase, who I never met—the one who introduced them all to Neal Cassady—looks like the sharp kid about to save the situation with a joke. Allen is all adolescent gawkiness and misery. He has shut his eyes, as if the taking of the picture is an intolerable intrusion. And there’s Jack in the center. No overcoat, just a cheap baggy suit in which his football-hero shoulders look enormous, loud tie pulled askew. He’s stretched his arms over Chase and Allen, so that his fingertips reach Burroughs’s shoulder. A cigarette dangles from his mouth in the romantic style of jazz piano players or hard-boiled all-night journalists in movies. He’s grinning directly, warmly, at the photographer as the shutter clicks. The only one of them totally connected to the moment.”

Here’s a longer excerpt from the book if you’d like to read more.

And here’s an interesting 2007 article about Joyce Johnson.


DC-area author Leslie Pietrzyk explores the creative process and all things literary.