Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Review: The Voice Is All by Joyce Johnson

The Voice Is All by Joyce Johnson is the type of book I just love.  It explores Jack Kerouac's early influences and how he evolved into the writer he became.  I honestly have zero interest in Jack Kerouac.  He's a writer I read early in college, enjoyed and then moved on to others.  This book is marvelous nonetheless.

I agreed to review it because coincidentally I had recently picked up one of Anais Nin's diaries.  She was another of his girlfriends who wrote, like Johnson.  And Nin, like Kerouac, I read in college and then moved on.  Reading her diary I was struck by how narcisistic Nin was....but did get a bit more curious about Kerouac.  I vowed to reread On the Road, his classic...but never did.  Instead The Voice Is All landed on my doorstep, literally.

Lucky me.

Johnson is a different sort of writer than Nin, or Kerouac.  She had a long career in publishing and that passion for writing and also detail is evident in the book.  Indeed, she is so meticulous in crafting her narrative I have a hard time summing so much up in a blog post.  Read the book to learn about life around the time of WW 2 in America for those becoming writers and exploring how our society was changing.

Kerouac became a great writer.  What Johnson has masterfully done is bring him and his (sometimes painful) journey alive.  She delves into the ideas, books, people and events that crafted his voice.

I love books like this.  For those not interested in how someone becomes a great might not resonate as much.  Johnson still tells a great story.  This book is one of my favorite reads this year...and I really am not such a Kerouac fan (to repeat).  Johnson deserves the credit.

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