Missing Men, Joyce Johnson

Joyce Johnson’s classic Minor Characters is valued not only for its portrayal of her relationship with Jack Kerouac, but also for its stunning evocation of what it meant to grow up female in the 1950s. In Missing Men, Johnson offers a revelatory self-portrait as she examines from the far-reaching reverberations of growing up without a father.

Born in 1935, she was an orphan’s daughter, named for her grandfather, an immigrant poet from Warsaw who killed himself when her mother was only five. Johnson would marry two artists who were also fatherless. James Johnson died in a motorcycle accident, widowing her at 27. Peter Pinchbeck, obsessed with reinventing abstract painting, was unable to commit himself to marriage and fatherhood. Telling a compelling story that has “shaped itself around absences,” Missing Men gives us the arc and the flavor of a unique New York life—from the author’s adventures as a Broadway stage child managed by her implacable mother to the fateful encounters that later brought her love and ultimately left her to make her way alone as an artist in her own right.

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Praise for Missing Men:

“[An] admirably dispassionate account of the intersection between character and fate – admirable for the perspective it demands, these particular intersections being those within the plot of her own family. … Lacking any agenda beyond the search for her own truth, Johnson’s memoir is quietly successful – not quiet as in small, but as would be the ideal environment for rumination: uncluttered, well lighted, a high remove offering the benefits of perspective.” -- New York Times Book Review

“Johnson reaches out to all these complicated people and thanks them for what they gave her. It is a big-hearted, commonsensical, thoroughly adult book.” -- Washington Post Book World

“Perceptive, engaging memoirs of a woman’s life shaped around the absence of certain men … A memoir of easy grace and lively intelligence filled with striking portraits of individuals, a time, and a place.” -- Kirkus Reviews

"Johnson writes so vividly, with such eloquent intelligence and passionate integrity about her younger self and the various versions of her family, that turning these pages, I often had the eerie sense that I too had experienced the events she describes. Missing Men is an irresistibly interesting account of a life shaped by the love of art and artists." -- Margot Livesey, author of Homework and Criminal

Copyright Irene Skolnick Literary Agency 2016