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‘Junie Moon’ author Marjorie Kellogg dies

Novelist-playwright's works featured characters with illnesses
/ Source: The Associated Press

Author Marjorie Kellogg, whose socially conscious plays and novels featured characters with mental and physical illnesses, has died. She was 83.

Kellogg, best known for "Tell Me That You Love Me, Junie Moon," died Dec. 19 of complications from Alzheimer's disease at her Santa Barbara home, according to her longtime companion, Sylvia Short.

A member of the Kellogg cereal dynasty, she attended the University of California, Berkeley, but dropped out to work as a copy editor at the San Francisco Chronicle. After World War II, she became a European correspondent for Salute magazine.

She returned to the United States in the early 1950s and took a job as a social worker in New York. Her experiences in that field provided fodder for many of her stories and characters.

"Where the writer and the social worker attempt to understand another human being, our tools and methods are quite similar," Kellogg said in a 1975 lecture at Smith College, her alma mater.

"Junie Moon," which was published in 1968, tells the story of an abused woman hospitalized with severe burns who meets two men — one a shooting victim confined to a wheelchair, the other with a brain disease. They end up sharing a house and taking care of each other.

The book was made into a 1970 film starring Liza Minnelli and Ken Howard and directed by Otto Preminger.

Two years later, she wrote "Like the Lion's Tooth," a novel about three emotionally disturbed children.

After writing the screenplay for the 1979 film adaptation of Sylvia Plath's classic novel about a suicidal young woman, "The Bell Jar," Kellogg focused on writing plays, most of which premiered in off-Broadway theaters.

In 1978, she met Short, an actress, during rehearsals for "The Smile of the Cardboard Man." They became a couple and moved to Santa Barbara in 1989 after Kellogg inherited property owned by her family.

Her last play, "Castaway," about a young woman in psychotherapy, was performed in 1997 by the Ensemble Theatre Company in Santa Barbara.

Short was her only survivor.