Half a century ago, a rangy young dancer wrote her first criticism for Louis Horst’s Dance Observer. Four years later, what she calls “the upstart and revolutionist” Village Voice invited Jill Johnston to cover the burgeoning downtown scene. As her reviews became more personal and less about dancing, the paper made her an eponymous columnist, “a chronicler of my own life,” and added Deborah Jowitt as a reviewer of performances.

In the intervening years Johnston’s written a number of books on dance, art, and of course, her own life; since 1984 she’s been on the masthead at Art in America. This summer the 76-year-old great-grandmother published At Sea on Land—a meditation on travel and politics and the way they intertwine—and emerged as a Web columnist. The third edition of her newly launched, monthly Johnston Letter comes out this week at, and is syndicated at The book, and the columns, are irresistible, embodying the same mixture of the private and the political, the aesthetic and the matter-of-fact, that made her Voice sagas essential reading 40 years ago.