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University of Texas at Austin

Diane Johnson:

A Preliminary Inventory of Her Papers at the Harry Ransom Center

Creator: Johnson, Diane, 1934-
Title: Diane Johnson Papers
Dates: ca. 1943-1997
Extent: 42 boxes, 4 oversize boxes (21.42 linear feet)
Abstract: The papers of this American novelist and biographer include drafts and production material for books, as well as drafts of screenplays, television scripts, book reviews, articles, essays, unpublished manuscripts, correspondence, personal papers, interviews, reviews, and screenplay adaptations.
Call Number: Manuscript Collection MS-04776
Language: English
Access Open for research

Administrative Information

Acquisition Purchase, Reg. no. 13953
Processed by Liz Murray, 1997

Harry Ransom Center, The University of Texas at Austin

Scope and Contents

The papers of novelist and biographer Diane Johnson include drafts and production material for eleven of her twelve books, as well as drafts of screenplays, television scripts, book reviews, articles, essays, unpublished manuscripts, correspondence, personal papers, interviews, reviews of her works, and screenplays adapted from her works. The collection ranges from early childhood diaries through the publication of her most recent novel. The papers are organized into five series: I. Works, II. Correspondence, III. Personal Papers, IV. Information about DJ, and V. Works of Others.
The largest series, Works, is arranged in six subseries: A. Books; B. Screenplays; C. Adaptations, Teleplays, and Musicals; D. Reviews; E. Other Writings, and F. Unpublished Manuscripts. The alphabetical arrangement of books in Subseries A includes Johnson's two biographies, Lesser Lives, a biography of Mary Ellen Peacock, wife of George Meredith, which received a National Book Award nomination in 1973, and Dashiell Hammett: A Life, nominated for the Los Angeles Times book prize in 1984. Extensive research material, as well as correspondence with Lillian Hellman and production photographs, is included with the Hammett material. Johnson's eight novels are well represented, spanning more than thirty years, from her earliest Fair Game (1965) to Le Divorce (1997). Included is Persian Nights, nominated for the Pulitzer Prize in 1987 and Lying Low, which received a 1979 National Book Award nomination. Also present is her non-fiction work, Natural Opium, a collection of travel essays. Included in the Works series are handwritten and typescript drafts, proofs, galleys, publicity material, and editorial correspondence. Johnson's collected essays, Terrorists and Novelists, nominated for the 1983 Pulitzer Prize in general nonfiction, is represented solely by reviews in Series III.
Of the screenplays in Subseries B, "The Shining," produced in 1980 with Stanley Kubrick, stands as Johnson's universally recognized work. Although some of her other screenplays were optioned, none except "The Shining" has been produced. Two of her screenplays are drawn from her novels, "The Shadow Knows" and "Two Lives," based on the lives of Dashiell Hammett and Lillian Hellman. The screenplay material includes drafts of scripts, research material, and correspondence.
The adaptations, teleplays, and musicals in Subseries C include the PBS production "An Apple, an Orange" selected for Doubleday's 1973 edition of the O. Henry Prize Stories, Johnson's brief sojourn in script writing in 1968 for the television series "My Three Sons," the musical play "Colette's The Vagabond," and an adaptation of John Fowles's novel Daniel Martin.
Nearly all of Johnson's book reviews, from 1972 to 1996, are present in draft and published form, arranged in order by the author of the book reviewed in Subseries D. Johnson reviewed books on a wide range of topics from Patty Hearst and Angela Davis to John Ruskin and Julia Margaret Cameron, from AIDS to Victorian morality, and works by authors such as Margaret Atwood, Saul Bellow, Anthony Burgess, Joan Didion, Erica Jong, John LeCarré, Doris Lessing, Mary McCarthy, Norman Mailer, Joyce Carol Oates, Isaac Bashevis Singer, John Updike, Gore Vidal, and Eudora Welty. She has reviewed extensively for the New York Times, New York Review of Books, San Francisco Chronicle, and Washington Post.
Johnson's other writings in Subseries E include articles, essays, lectures, conference papers, letters to the editor, and contributions to books such as the preface to Margaret Gatty's Parables of Nature and the introduction to Josephine Herbst's The Starched Blue Sky of Spain, and Other Memoirs.
Subseries F contains drafts of Johnson's Ph.D. dissertation on the poetry of George Meredith, as well as correspondence regarding its potential for publication. It was during the research and writing of the dissertation that Johnson became acquainted with the life of Mary Ellen Peacock which subsequently led to the writing of Lesser Lives. Also present are drafts of her first novel "Runes" and a story "Rings."
Series II contains correspondence from 1951 to 1997 with friends, family, authors, editors, publishers, agents, fans, colleagues at the University of California, and students. Incoming and outgoing correspondence is interfiled. Correspondents of note include editors from A. D. Peters & Co., Alfred A. Knopf Inc., The Bodley Head, Harcourt, Brace & World, and the New York Review of Books, as well as individuals such as Alice Adams, Jane Annesley. Eve Auchincloss, Helen Brann, Fred Dupee, Barbara Epstein, John Espey, Jean Gandesbery, David Garnett, Christopher Isherwood, Jascha Kessler, Stanley Kubrick, Alison Lurie, Mary McCarthy, Jessica Mitford, Iris Murdock, Joyce Carol Oates, Susan Sontag, Robert Sward, John Updike, and Dan Wickenden.
Series III includes information about Johnson found in articles, interviews, and reviews of her work. The personal papers in Series IV contain an childhood composition book as well as six diaries sampling three decades from 1943 to 1964, from elementary school to university years. Likewise, coursework from those years are present along with photographs and articles from her 1953 guest editorship at Mademoiselle, where she joined company with Sylvia Plath. Articles and information are included for her 1979 Rosenthal Foundation Award and Guggenheim fellowship for 1977-1978 as well as her diplomas from Stephens College, University of Utah, and University of California at Los Angeles. Also present are biographical data, financial receipts from 1966- 1993, and publicity and family photographs.
The last series contains the work of other writers including adaptations of "An Apple, An Orange" and Persian Nights, as well as articles by others.
Johnson's original order was maintained where discernable, especially for production material and drafts of works. Her correspondence was unordered for the most part, so a single alphabetical arrangement was imposed. Material for her reviews was pulled from several groups of drafts and printed versions, which were then combined into a single alphabetical arrangement.

Diane Johnson Papers--Folder List