Imatge de l'autor

Joyce Johnson (1) (1935–)

Autor/a de Minor Characters: A Beat Memoir

Per altres autors anomenats Joyce Johnson, vegeu la pàgina de desambiguació.

9+ obres 1,165 Membres 18 Ressenyes

Sobre l'autor

Joyce Johnson was born in 1935. At the age of eight her family moved to Manhattan, to an apartment that landed her in the middle of the Beat Movement at an early age. Her parents wanted her to be a librettist, but she only ever had half her mind on the music. At the age of 16, she was accepted to mostra'n més Barnard College. There she befriended Elise Cowan, Allen Ginsberg's supposed girlfriend. The two became close friends, and Cowan introduced her to the literary world of the Beat Movement. After a huge fight with her family over abandoning her music, Johnson left home. Ginsberg introduced Johnson to Jack Kerouac in January of 1957, an introduction that would change her life and her career forever. She published her first novel Come and Join the Dance at the age of 26, four years after her and Kerouac went their separate ways. Long after their separation, she published Minor Characters a book about her life in the Beat Movement and her romance with Jack Kerouac, which won the National Book Critics Circle Award for Autobiography in 1983. Her other works include Bad Connections, In the Night Café, Door Wide Open: A Beat Love Affair in Letters, 1957-1958, and Missing Men. In 1983, she became a faculty member of the graduate writing program at Columbia University. (Bowker Author Biography) mostra'n menys
Crèdit de la imatge: Credit: David Shankbone, Sept. 2007

Obres de Joyce Johnson

Obres associades

The Portable Beat Reader (Viking Portable Library) (1992) — Col·laborador — 1,461 exemplars
The Norton Book of Women's Lives (1993) — Col·laborador — 412 exemplars
Writing New York: A Literary Anthology (1998) — Col·laborador — 278 exemplars
How to Become Ridiculously Well-read in One Evening: A Collection of Literary Encapsulations (1985) — Col·laborador, algunes edicions248 exemplars
The Cool School: Writing from America's Hip Underground (2013) — Col·laborador — 80 exemplars
The Seasons of Women: An Anthology (1995) — Col·laborador — 46 exemplars


Coneixement comú

Altres noms
Glassman, Joyce (birth name)
Data de naixement
Lloc de naixement
Queens, New York, USA
Llocs de residència
New York, New York, USA
Barnard College
Kerouac, Jack (partner)



How did I come to read this book?

In December 2022, I went to Mexico City. It was my first visit there, and I spent much of it simply walking around various neighborhoods. I was aware of some literary history, and remembered its connections to the Beats - in particular, the near-legendary episode where William Burroughs killed his wife with a gun in Mexico City when they were “playing William Tell”. It is one of the two killings that are part of the founding mythos of the Beats (the other being that by Lucian Carr).

I looked up some information about the Burroughs killing and discovered it occurred in a very pleasant, tree-lined neighborhood I had just been exploring the day before; I had walked within a block of the location.

Remembering also that some parts of On the Road took place in Mexico City, when I got home I pulled out my copy and reread that section. It’s the last major trip in the book, where Sal and Dean drive down to Mexico City from Denver, Dean’s home. Most of the scenes take place during a few stopovers in small Mexican towns, hardly any in CDMX (as Mexico City is often abbreviated) itself. Still, those Mexican scenes were very compelling - what a great book, and the text remains intense and vibrant all these years later.

So I was thinking about Kerouac and the Beats again. I looked over my other Kerouac books, like Desolation Angels, Vanity of Duluoz, and Dharma Bums. What else could I read? Maybe his first book, The Town and the City? Then I remembered having read a column by Dwight Garner recommending a memoir by one of the women in the Beat circle. I found and reread the column - on Joyce Johnson’s Minor Characters - and ordered it (in paperback) immediately after.

I just finished it - what a moving and enjoyable book! (Thank you, Dwight Garner!)

Kerouac himself doesn’t enter until the second half of the book, but the early parts about young Joyce Glassman growing up in upper Manhattan, trying to explore the dangerous world of bohemians in Greenwich Village, and then going to Barnard, are very engaging. Johnson was a dozen or so years younger than Kerouac, and so she was in elementary school in Morningside Heights when Kerouac, Carr, and Ginsburg were Columbia undergrads just a few blocks away. She speculates that she might have crossed paths with them outside some of the neighborhood cafes and restaurants.

Kerouac finally enters the book in 1956, when twenty-one year old Joyce is set up with him by Allen Ginsburg on a blind date at a downtown diner. He’s just recently gotten into town and is broke; she enters the diner and recognizes him by his colorful lumberjack shirt. She buys him some food and brings him home.

The period that she was his on-and-off girlfriend, about a year or two, includes the long-awaited publication of On the Road, and the instant impact it made on 1957 America (more than 5 years after he wrote it). Joyce and Jack head down to the newsstand at midnight on publication day, buy the New York Times when it rolls off the truck, and tear it open to read the review they expect. And wow. It was an ode to the new king of the Beats, hailing a great new writer and a great new literary generation. He became a literary celebrity and the embodiment of the “Beat” generation overnight.

At first, I felt that Johnson’s description of Jack (as she calls him) was superfluous, that I didn’t need it, because I already knew him from reading his books. His prose is such a direct and transparent record of his consciousness that I, as his reader, was completely familiar with his personality, from the inside. Johnson describes him from the outside. But eventually I was won over, convinced that this view of Kerouac from the outside is a valuable complement to his writings.

Kerouac as he appears in Minor Characters is at once familiar and also subtly different from the narrator of his books. His devotion to lived experience, observation, and writing are all there, as are the genuineness of his bohemian outlook and rejection of society’s norms. The negatives are prominent too, especially his drinking problem, but also his restlessness, his inability to stay in one place or with one woman.

He heads out to California, from where he writes to Joyce to urge her to come out West. She duly makes the plans, but then he calls to say that San Francisco is dead, a big disappointment, and that he’s going to head to Mexico - the only place, he has decided, to find a true meaningful existence. And soon he writes from Mexico, again urging her to join him, saying they’ll live together writing books; she quits her job to join him, but before she can leave Jack decides he hates it there and is coming back to the States.

In his best books, Kerouac was able to turn that restlessness into a great asset, a constant searching, a need for movement towards an authentic core of human life. From the girlfriend’s everyday perspective, it caused tremendous difficulty in achieving stability or lasting happiness.

In the book, the only anchor in his life seems to be his mother. After enough time roaming or drinking with friends, he always heads back to Memere, as he calls her. During most of the period covered in this book, Memere is living in Orlando, but later, at Joyce’s suggestion, he buys a house for Memere (and himself) out on Long Island, from where he can easily head in to New York when the urge for a drink at a crowded bar takes hold.

The Jack of Minor Characters, although on the whole bearing witness to the truth of Kerouac’s books, is actually more charismatic, more rugged and handsome, and more attractive to women than Sal Paradise or the other narrators. When Joyce and Jack go out, there are always other women around trying to get his attention, sometimes quite aggressively. Whereas in On the Road, for example, Sal comes across more as the quiet observer, in the shadow of the kinetic and magnetic Dean Moriarty, who is constantly juggling wives and girlfriends.

Johnson portrays Kerouac as an artist and a true bohemian, not merely a talented writer adopting a persona. And a great artist at that, searching for “bedrock experience” and the means to convey it on the page. I turned the last page of the book more convinced than ever of Kerouac’s artistic stature, and eager to read the rest of his oeuvre that I’ve missed so far. Not every artist can withstand such a warts-and-all close-up portrait, but my respect was in the end enhanced, not diminished, by his portrayal here. I’m even thinking that On the Road may be the great book of 20th century America.

Joyce Johnson broke up with Kerouac in frustration, but walked away from the relationship believing in his greatness as an artist. Maybe it’s a blessing that she waited twenty-five years before writing this memoir, as it gives her text a mature perspective. She is thankful for her time with him, and for her time as part of the circle of artists now known as the Beat Movement. And so are we.
… (més)
viscount | Hi ha 7 ressenyes més | Mar 3, 2023 |
If you enjoyed MINOR CHARACTERS, Joyce Johnson's award-winning memoir of her two year relationship with Jack Kerouac, then you might like MISSING MEN too. It offers an overview of the rest of her life, including her offbeat childhood trying to make it as a child actress, with her mother's avid support. (Her father, a meek little man, not so much.) She also gives a brief look at her Jewish immigrant grandparents. But mostly the book is about her life after Kerouac, writing and working in the publishing business as an editor and supporting two husbands, both artists. The first died in a motorcycle crash. The second gave her a child, then they drifted apart and divorced, but they remained cautious friends until his death years later. I found the book mildly entertaining, and also informative about the artsy set in Greenwich Village and SoHo in the 60s and 70s. Johnson is a very capable writer. An enjoyable read.

- Tim Bazzett, author of the memoir, BOOKLOVER
… (més)
TimBazzett | Hi ha 1 ressenya més | Oct 15, 2020 |
The Voice is All: The Lonely Victory of Jack Kerouac by Joyce Johnson is a comprehensive biography of Jack Kerouac. Johnson's articles have appeared in The New York Times Magazine, New York, The Washington Post, and Vanity Fair. Johnson for a time was Kerouac's girlfriend and a member of the inner circle of the beat movement.

I like Kerouac's work. I really do, but I didn't always. Many years ago I found myself at Big Sur and felt compelled to run to the closest bookstore and buy a copy of Big Sur. It didn't take long for me to put the book down. A few years ago a friend at work, knowing I read often, asked me if I read any Kerouac. I said I tried but couldn't get into it. He said he had the same problem until he heard Kerouac read. The secret, he said, is to read it in “beat.” I gave it a try and it made a world of difference. Since then I have read all Kerouac's major works, and he has a spot on my bookshelf.

Once I was fully into Kerouac's work, I dabbled into Ginsberg and Burroughs. The same friend that told me to read in beat brought me a copy of Minor Characters to read. It was also written by Johnson. When I was asked how I liked it I replied honestly. I didn't like it it seemed too much like someone who felt cheated in history, despite her association. To be fair, I decided to give her another try with “The Voice is All.”

To her credit, Johnson writes an extremely detailed biography. Having access to the Berg Collection in New York Public Library, Johnson had a wealth of knowledge not usually available to the public. Kerouac's childhood is covered in great detail especially his French-Canadian background. All the major players are covered as well as their histories. Even Ginsberg setting Kerouac and Johnson up on a blind date has its part. There is a tremendous amount of information in this book and all of it very detailed. That may be part of the problem I have with the book. Kerouac reveals a great detail about his life in his books. Johnson does not contradict Kerouac, but just goes much deeper into details. There is a point where a book begins to cross the line from being informative to becoming a scholarly dissertation or thesis. Biographies generally keep the reader interested with the subjects life, adventures, or accomplishments. Scholarly work presents detailed information that generally doesn't hold everyone's interest, most that I have read and written would only hold the interest of a few. Generally it has a much smaller audience, but much greater detail. Johnson seems to be on this path; rich in detail, but dry to the average reader. I found her style to be informative but not compelling to read though cover to cover.

A casual fan of Kerouac's work may find The Voice is All intimidating or a bit more than they expected. To the person needing or wanting to know every detail of the man's life, this book may be for you. I will keep it as a reference. There is some really great information contained in the pages of The Voice is All, but I doubt I will read it cover to cover again. A great deal of credit is given to Johnson for compiling such a tome. What it lacks in captivating reading it makes up for in information
… (més)
evil_cyclist | Hi ha 3 ressenyes més | Mar 16, 2020 |
most moving biography I have read of Kerouac- poetic, accurate, truthful.
beanbrarian | Hi ha 3 ressenyes més | Apr 19, 2019 |



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