Biography (Cyclopedia of World Authors, Fourth Revised Edition)
The affluent world into which John Gregory Dunne was born in 1932 interests him less than the working-class world about which he often writes. The son of Dorothy Burns and Richard Edwin Dunne, a physician, Dunne grew up in West Hartford, Connecticut. He received a bachelor’s degree from Princeton University in 1954 and was a freelance writer before joining the staff of Time magazine, where he worked for five years before resigning shortly after marrying writer Joan Didion in 1964.
For the next ten years Dunne kept afloat by working on screenplays with his wife and by contributing to magazines; he and Didion were regular columnists for some, including The Saturday Evening Post. Dunne’s first book, a nonfiction account of the California grape pickers’ strike in 1962, grew out of a journalistic piece he had written about the strike. Delano: The Story of the California Grape Strike established him as one of an emerging breed of participatory journalists. Dunne’s focus was on César Chávez and his organizing California’s grape pickers into the National Farm Worker’s Association.
Although this documentary work evoked favorable criticism, it did not sell well. A ready market existed, however, for more investigative books by someone of Dunne’s obvious ability, so he spent a year doing on-site observations at Twentieth Century-Fox for his next book, The Studio, which examined the workings of film...
(The entire section is 866 words.)
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Biography (Critical Survey of Long Fiction, Fourth Edition)
John Gregory Dunne, born on May 25, 1932, in Hartford, Connecticut, was the fifth of six children born to Richard Edward and Dorothy Burns Dunne. In many ways, Dunne’s family enjoyed the typical immigrant success story. His maternal grandfather arrived in the United States from Ireland shortly after the American Civil War, an uneducated boy who could not read. He became a grocer and then a banker in Frog Hollow, Hartford’s Irish ghetto. Dunne grew up with stories about his Irish ancestors’ assimilation in America and with a sense of being a “harp,” a derogatory term for the Irish, who were considered inferior by the city’s Anglo-Saxon establishment.
An indifferent student, Dunne nevertheless managed to complete four years at Princeton University and earn an undergraduate degree. Not knowing what to do after graduation, he enlisted in the U.S. Army, a decision he credits in Harp, his autobiography, with helping to ground him with a sense not only of society’s complexity but also of its very rich resources in humanity. Had he remained in the elitist milieu of Princeton, Dunne suggests, his career as a writer would have been seriously limited, if not entirely vitiated, by the lack of worldly experience he deemed necessary for a writer.
Dunne’s development as a novelist proceeded slowly. He began writing short pieces for newspapers before landing a job on the staff of Time magazine. There he labored for six years...
(The entire section is 391 words.)