Flyover Lives: A Memoir

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David Mamet. She departed from California on the magic carpet of a research grant, faking a sense of economic stability as she raised her kids and pursued her writing dreams in England. But I only lied about having enough income for myself—Johnson was pretending she could afford to feed, clothe, and educate four kids on foreign soil.

Flyover Lives by Diane Johnson, review by Carl Caton

In fact, their lives were enriched by years of living in France and other spots abroad. In chapters on screenwriting, she describes working on scripts with renowned directors Francis Ford Coppola, Mike Nichols, etc. On the other hand, one of her own books was made into a Merchant Ivory film, set in Paris— Le Divorce — and she also wrote the screenplay for a cinema classic— The Shining — in collaboration with Stanley Kubrick. She got to meet Elizabeth Taylor and Dr. Jonas Salk. Not too shabby for a mid-Western native, mother of four.


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  6. Diane Johnson’s new memoir explores her life and work!

It would have been nice to study her sober, confident approach to literary life when I was making my early choices. Hemingway, Fitzgerald, et al. Johnson created a wonderful body of work and achievement that inspires in a totally different way. Her life was no less courageous or original for reaching these heights gracefully, in the company of a happy family.

Flyover Lives is mostly a response to a comment made to Johnson at a snobbish house party in France denigrating American's indifference to history, including our own. Smarting from the remark, and bolstered later by a discovered trove of letters from her ancestors descended from European immigrants who eventually settled in Illinois, Johnson has produced a somewhat odd and fragmented memoir of her early life in Moline, Illinois, along with a cobbled together story of her forbears as they moved from France to Quebec and eventually to the American Great Lakes region.

Her book will appeal to many who share such an ancestry, with family like mine who moved from one area to another seeking something better than what they had, and who in concert with numerous others populated the midwest in the early s and beyond. Johnson's family is similar to many others, but different in leaving a written record that allows a story to be reconstructed, at least partially.

The strength of Johnson's memoir lies in her description of her ancestor's lives and how that history shaped her own. Older baby boomers will especially relate to her memories of her own childhood and coming of age in middle America in the s and s, and the beginnings of her career in the early s.