Kooky or Compulsive: How Do We Understand Johnnie?

   Foreign Correspondent is different from The Flamethrowers in many ways, but the most immediately obvious way is style. Joanna Howard uses a bubbly, geeky, spastic prose to define her narrator, and the results are odd. I found myself laughing out loud for some sections (“This particular harbor town was not nearly as seedy as often depicted in serial dramas on premium cable. I did not get shanked or mugged even once” (58). Other sections simply confuse me: like Johnnie’s tendency to abbreviate yours to yrs (56). While I find the novel to be highly conversational and readable, it is also filled with heavy, detailed descriptions and strange title phrases. I found myself wondering what the purpose of those titles were—at first I thought maybe they were quotes from Foreign Correspondent, the film, but they aren’t all from the movie.

     I’ve come to the conclusion that the strangeness of the prose and the casual, unfulfilled sexuality of the content (grappling, buying fancy lingerie—for Scooter?) are combined here to create a narrator that comes off as insecure. I got the sense early on that Johnnie was a bit of a nerd, if only from her day-glo skeleton t-shirt, which she is clearly enamored with (4). Her extravagant writing seems like a defense mechanism to me: if she just keeps talking, she doesn’t need to experience that uncomfortable pause where no one responds.

   On a side note, we keep trying to figure out the connections between the text and the film, but, like Johnnie and Scooter, the relationship seems a little one-sided. Johnnie is an adoring fan attempting to emulate an idol; the book is wordy and infatuated, and named after a Hitchcock classic. Maybe the disconnect is on purpose? Just a theory.

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