Coast to Coast by Nora Johnson
A Family Romance

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Nora Johnson was a young child when her parents' marriage collapsed. Her father, Nunnally Johnson, the writer, producer, or director of many acclaimed movies, such as The Grapes of Wrath and The Dirty Dozen, remained in California, where he would continue to be a major Hollywood presence for more than three decades. Nora's mother, Marion, a beautiful but unsettled woman, took her to New York to start a new life -- one surrounded by her mother's lovers and eccentric literary friends instead of movie stars and studio heads. Coast to Coast is Nora's account of a childhood spent shuttling between Manhattan and Hollywood. What emerges is a marvelous portrait of American life in the 1940's and 1950's -- from the movie lots of California to the cocktail parties of the Upper East Side -- and also a touching story of a shrewd, observant girl who would grow up far too fast. Nora shares the colorful details of a childhood spent in privilege, but also captures the painful loneliness of changing schools, four-day train trips from one coast to the other, and never being quite sure of where she belonged. She also brings to life her droll, charming, talented father -- a Thurberesque character in Hollywood -- and her beautiful and erratic mother, a woman who fled the Los Angeles movie colony life but was unable to forget the husband who took her there. Coast to Coast is a wonderfully written portrait of a fascinating era and a child who came of age in it, who had everything she wanted -- except a place to call home.

About Nora Johnson

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Nora Johnson is Associate Professor in the Department of English Literature, Swarthmore College.
Published June 17, 2008 by Simon & Schuster. 308 pages
Genres: Biographies & Memoirs, History, Humor & Entertainment, Literature & Fiction. Non-fiction

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Kirkus Reviews

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Novelist/memoirist Johnson (Perfect Together, 1991, etc.) revisits Century City, Culver City, and New York City in the days when bicoastal travel meant riding The Chief or The Twentieth Century and the movies starred quick-witted women and well-groomed men speaking clever dialogue.

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Publishers Weekly

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When the teenaged Johnson and a pal attend a grown-up party, mean, drunk Johnny Mercer insults Johnson's bulimic girlfriend, and Humphrey Bogart comes to the rescue.

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(While her new hubby played poker, Liz expounded on her love of baby animals and did an imitation of a chipmunk.)But the figure that looms largest in this volume, and Johnson's life, is her complicated and gifted father, Nunnally.

Feb 19 2016 | Read Full Review of Coast to Coast: A Family Romance

Time Out New York

An often very funny blend of road movie, buddy-buddy comedy and thriller parody, Johnson's film is short on visual delights (it was made for TV) but full of fine performances, strong throwaway lines (courtesy Stan Hey), and deft off-the-wall touches.

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