From Missing Men
We used to read our getting together backward, the way you read certain
accidents that in retrospect seem meant to have happened. We’d examine
all the elements, conjecturing how different the outcome might have been if
one or two had been subtracted—if I’d stayed home that Saturday night, if
his friend hadn’t given him the address of the party. Maybe he’d still be
alive if he hadn’t run into me.
He used to have a theory that our paths had crossed when he was a
nineteen-year-old sailor, roaming Times Square in those crowds of
servicemen Mother and I would walk through as we made our way
from the Music Box theater to the subway. He would have seen a little
girl with long blond braids and wondered what she was doing out so late.
“I’d have noticed you,” he said.
The knowledge he’d brought home from the war—the fatefulness of time and place—preoccupied him…
The difference between life and death, he often reminded me, could hang on a few inches. I’d resist that
awareness—I wanted to believe that together we’d be safe.
“Joyce Johnson writes so vividly, with such eloquent intelligence and passionate integrity about her
younger self and the various versions of her family, that turning these pages, I often had the eerie sense
that I too had experienced the events she describes….an irresistibly interesting account of a life shaped
by the love of art and artists.”
“Joyce Johnson establishes, within sentences, how profound absences can shape a woman’s life. Stunning
images abound—from the sepia past through the grainy cinema verité of two marriages….In our over
analyzed world, Missing Men soars over the psychobabblers and flies with the angels.”
–Laura Shaine Cunningham
“With a style balanced between lyricism and forceful clarity, Joyce Johnson has become
one of our premiere memoirists.”
–Vince Passaro, O, The Oprah Magazine