Johnson, Diane


Johnson, Diane
(1934– )
   Educator, scenarist, and novelist, Diane Johnson’s stories of international romance and manners have been compared to the works of Edith Wharton. Born in Moline, Illinois, her upbringing by a high school principal led to her Ph. D. in English at UCLA and a desire to write. Her first successful books, Loving Hands at Home (1968) and Burning (1970), were dissections of troubled marriages. Lesser Lives (1972) was a biography of poet Mary Ellen Meredith, wife of writer George Meredith. The Shadow Knows (1974) was a psychological portrait of a woman alone terrorized by an unknown stalker. Some of its situations, including an attack on her door by an ax-wielding madman, resemble scenes in STEPHEN KING’s novel THE SHINING, which doubtless led STANLEY KUBRICK to approach her about cowriting the scenario for his screen adaptation of the novel. Johnson’s follow-up novel, Lying Low (1978) was hailed by critics as surpassing its predecessor in terms of its foreboding atmosphere and violence. Years abroad with her husband, a physician, produced such travel pieces as Persian Nights (1986) and Natural Opium: Some Traveler’s Tales (1993). Her 1997 novel Le Divorce chronicles the misadventures of two sisters from California who make a modern pilgrimage to Paris. Johnson divides her time between Paris and San Francisco. Although she has written many screenplays, including an adaptation of The Shadow Knows, the only one to actually reach the screen to date is The Shining. She recollects that Kubrick talked to her more like a novelist than a filmmaker: “I was impressed with how Stanley Kubrick talked like a novelist, without bringing into discussion of the script the visual imagery he was perhaps holding at bay, the way a novelist can visualize what he is writing about, but does not actually do so until he must put into words. ” She is most sympathetic to the female characters in all her novels:What continues to be Johnson’s triumph is that she writes strong, resilient, resolute female characters who find hidden reservoirs of strength and determination just when they need it most, who persevere in the face of menace, mockery, and dismissal, and that she manages to tell their tales in an engaging, witty, and totally believable style.
   References
   ■ A Reader’s Guide to the Novels of Diane Johnson (New York: Plume, 2001);
   ■ Johnson, Diane, “Writing for the Movies Is Harder Than It Looks,” New York Times, April 14, 1985.

The Encyclopedia of Stanley Kubrick. . 2002.

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