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26

WEDNESDAY

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Doctors with first names like Phil and Laura will give you plenty of reasons why an artistic young woman, the granddaughter of a suicide, would become involved with a series of troubled, boozy, creative older men. But artists sometimes see a different side of the story. Writer Joyce Johnson, best known as one of Jack Kerouac’s lovers, recalls a stroll with her husband, painter Jim Johnson, during which they saw a pigeon fly heedlessly into a string of holiday lights that strangled it. “We stared at the bedraggled gray bundle of feathers dangling above Grand Street. ‘Just think,’ Jim said to me, ‘that bird had the whole fucking sky to fly in.’” A month later, Jim was dead—accident or possibly suicide—and Joyce was a widow at 27. “[M]y life has shaped itself around absences—” she writes in her new memoir, Missing Men, “first by happenstance; ultimately, perhaps, by choice.” Hear her generous, eloquent attempts to fill the voids when Johnson reads at 7 p.m. at Politics and Prose, 5015 Connecticut Ave. NW. Free. (202) 364-1919. (Pamela Murray Winters)