Understanding Diane Johnson

Understanding Diane Johnson

Understanding Diane Johnson

Understanding Diane Johnson

Synopsis

Understanding Diane Johnson is a biographical and critical study of a quintessential American novelist who has devoted forty-five years to writing about French and American culture. Johnson, who was nominated for the National Book Award three times and the Pulitzer Prize twice, has been a regular contributor to the New York Review of Books since the 1970s and is the author of more than a dozen fiction and nonfiction volumes. Carolyn A. Durham explores Johnson's fiction and nonfiction works, emphasizing that setting is key to the construction of Johnson's literary world, a theme displayed throughout her eleven novels. Johnson is well known as a comic novelist who addresses serious social problems. Durham outlines Johnson's continued exploration of women's lives and her experimentation with varied forms of narrative technique and genre parody in the detective novels The Shadow Knows and Lying Low, both award-winning novels. Durham examines Johnson's reinvention of the international novel of manners--inherited from Henry James and Edith Wharton--in her best-selling Franco-American trilogy: Le Divorce, Le Mariage, and L'Affaire.As the first book-length study of this distinguished American writer, Understanding Diane Johnson surveys an extensive body of work and draws critical attention to a well-published, widely read author who was the winner of the California Book Awards Gold Medal for Fiction in 1997.

Excerpt

The Understanding Contemporary American Literature series was founded by the estimable Matthew J. Bruccoli (1931–2008), who envisioned these volumes as guides or companions for students as well as good nonacademic readers, a legacy that will continue as new volumes are developed to fill in gaps among the nearly one hundred series volumes published to date and to embrace a host of new writers only now making their marks on our literature. As Professor Bruccoli explained in his preface to the volumes he edited, because much influential contemporary literature makes special demands, “the word understanding in the titles was chosen deliberately. Many willing readers lack an adequate understanding of how contemporary literature works; that is, of what the author is attempting to express and the means by which it is conveyed.” Aimed at fostering this understanding of good literature and good writers, the criticism and analysis in the series provide instruction in how to read certain contemporary writers—explicating their material, language, structures, themes, and perspectives—and facilitate a more profitable experience of the works under discussion.

In the twenty-first century, Professor Bruccoli’s prescience gives us an avenue to publish expert critiques of significant contemporary American writing. the series continues to map the literary landscape and provide both instruction and enjoyment. Future volumes will seek to introduce new voices alongside canonized favorites, to chronicle the changing literature of our times, and to remain, as Professor Bruccoli conceived, contemporary in the best sense of the word.

Linda Wagner-Martin, Series Editor . . .

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