American writer Jill Johnston returns with another deeply personal though widely engaging piece of non fiction, England’s Child.
The former Village Voice columnist, and Art and America critic has for this book decided to approach the subject of her own father’s life as a means to tell her own story of origins.
Johnston’s father, an English bellfounder met her mother on one of his transatlantic voyages carrying bells for the Carillon (an instrument featuring 23 bells). Not growing up with her father, Johnston’s book is as much an exploration of her family’s history as it is a unique look into the world of bell makers – merging autobiography with straight non fiction into one informative yet moving read.
-œI have never imagined telling this story without an account of why I became the one to do it, Johnston says in the book. Though in person she is quick to point out that, -œwhile I write about myself, it is not in the form of a memoir – a form of writing that gathers no significance unto itself, but rather serves its subject.
As in her previous books, which include Lesbian Nation, Gullibles Travels and an acclaimed biography of artist Jasper Johns, Johnston uses her subject matter as a vessel for exploring the artform of prose writing.
-œMy writing is all of one piece, dating from 1959, Johnston said.
-œWhether the subject was criticism or autobiographical, the writing itself has always come first, with subjects more or less excuses for writing. Though I would hate to be misunderstood making subjects seem unimportant.
-œAs an evolving writer always looking to master the craft, subjects naturally were necessary to the process. I don’t write about subjects but through them. I read to see through subjects to the writing and aim to write prose that has that affect.
Starting as a dance critic in the 1950s, Johnston was picked up in 1959 by the newly established revolutionary’s paper, the Village Voice. Johnston established herself as both a foremost insight into the realm of avant guarde arts, as well as a mighty friend to many of the art scene trailblazers attempting to establish themselves in New York in the sixties.
Her dance column was soon to develop into a more autobiographical account of her dalliances within this lively art scene, capturing one of the most exciting periods of American art from a distinctly unique perspective.
As an openly gay woman, writing with insight, authority and strength in a male dominated arena, Johnston quickly established herself as a key voice of the feminist movement and advocate for GLBT rights.
In a 1971 panel series debating feminsim, Johnston went up against Norman Mailer, Germaine Greer and a realm of other Zeitgesits to debate the topic from a different angle. Starting off with a poem, Johnston’s rebuttle culminated in a live simulation of lesbian sex.
Now 40 years on, Johnston continues with the same fiesty and intelligent approach to writing and the world around as she always has, inviting readers into the little known realm of bellmakers as well as the richly articulated realm of Johnston’s own world perspective.
Info: England’s Child can be ordered through http://jilljohnston.com
Jill Johnston… -˜the writing itself has always come first’.