Near and Far – Johnnie’s Endeavors at Closeness

Space and touch, correspondence and interruption, comprehension and miscommunication … Joanna Howard seems to be grappling with the dialectic of these concepts in the swirling, ever-changing, never-stagnant world of Johnnie James. Most particularly, I notice a chafing between Johnnie’s intents and hopes to grow closer to an individual, and the reality of her relationship. The vision that Johnnie maintains about a relationship diverges from the emotional distance between Johnnie and particular people she is corresponding with or endeavoring to spend time with — to truly know — throughout the book. I think immediately of Scooter, of course; Johnnie is adamant and fiercely zealous in her attempts to know this person — she is is fixated on this connection, giving great weight to her letters and thoughts on Scooter throughout the day. But the reality clashes with this: Scooter is still so distant, so unknown, with his terse responses. So even in the midst of such great emphasis on closeness, on connection, there is distance and a hindered correspondence; Johnnie’s words do not sway Scooter, do not pull him closer emotionally or physically, even though she so endeavors for them to do so. I think this is not an isolated occurrence for Johnnie, however. One select anecdote confirms this: on page 51, Johnnie tells us about her last meeting with her friend Art, which was rushed and not very enjoyable, or meaningful. Johnnie comments: “It is not uncommon for me to leave people with the impression that I have actually seen less of them than if I had not seen them at all” (51). We see this with Scooter throughout the text, and with Johnnie’s other relationships: her intensity, her pushing forward and her acute desire for closeness to particular people sometimes seems to only widen the gap and generate more distance, more unknown.

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