Sydney, 2021-12-23 12:43:00. Joan Didion, peerless prose designer, dies at 87
NEW YORK – Matt Joan Didion, the esteemed writer and essayist whose subtle social and personal commentary on such classics as “The White Album” and “The Year of Magical Thinking” made her a uniquely articulate critic of turbulent times. She was 87 years old.
Didion Penguin’s publisher Random House announced the author’s death Thursday. The company said she died of complications from Parkinson’s disease.
“Dedion was one of the nation’s most intelligent writers and observers. Her literary works, bestselling reviews, and memoirs have won numerous honors and are considered modern classics,” Penguin Random House said in a statement.
Along with Tom Wolfe, Nora Efron, and Guy Thales, Didion ruled the “new journalists” group that emerged in the 1960s and linked the literary style to factual reporting. Small and frail even as a young woman, with big, sad eyes often hidden behind sunglasses and a soft, willful speaking style, she was a novelist, playwright, and essayist who once remarked that I was “so small physically, so unobtrusive, and so neurotically unjoined that people tend to Forgetting that my existence is against their best interests.”
Or, in her most famous words: “Books always sell someone.”
Didion was awarded the National Humanities Medal in 2012, when she was praised for dedicating her “life to observing the things others seek not to see.” For decades, she has been involved in the quiet, ruthless anatomy of politics and culture, from hippies to presidential campaigns to the Patty Hearst kidnapping, and her distrust of official stories.
“Slouching Towards Bethlehem”, “The White Album” and other books have become staples of literary journalism, with notable writings including its removal of Hollywood policy in “Good Citizens” and a prophetic opposition to the consensus that in 1989 there were five young black and Latino men. Men raped a white jogger in Central Park (the men’s convictions were later overturned and they were released from prison).
Author Susan Orlean described Didion as “my idol and inspiration” on Twitter.
Didion was equally indifferent about her struggles. She was diagnosed in her 30s with multiple sclerosis, around the same time she suffered a breakdown and was checked into a psychiatric clinic in Santa Monica, California who diagnosed her view of the world as “essentially pessimistic, lethargic and depressed.” In her seventies, she wrote about personal tragedy in the heartbreaking 2005 work, “The Year of Magical Thinking,” a story formed from the chaos of grief following the death of her husband and writing partner, John Gregory Dunn. It won a National Book Award, and had it adapted as a solo on Broadway starring Vanessa Redgrave.
Dunn had collapsed in 2003 at their table and died of a heart attack even when their daughter, Quintana Roo Den Michael, was seriously ill in hospital. The memoir was a bestseller and an almost instant standard, the kind of work people will instinctively get into after losing a loved one. Didion said she thought of the work as a testament to a specific time; Tragically, “Magic Thinking” became dated shortly after its publication. Quintana died during the summer of 2005 at the age of 39 due to acute pancreatitis. Didion wrote about her daughter’s death in the 2011 publication Blue Nights.
“We’ve kind of evolved into a society where grief is completely hidden. It doesn’t happen in our family. It doesn’t happen at all,” she told The Associated Press in 2005. Didion spent her final years in New York, but was closely identified with her native California, “a hologram that becomes immaterial as I drive through it.” This was the setting for her most famous novel, Play As You Lie Desperate, and many of her essays.
“California belongs to Joan Didion,” New York Times critic Michiko Kakutani wrote. “It’s not California where everyone wears pilot sunglasses, owns a Jacuzzi and buys clothes on Rodeo Drive. But California in the sense of the West. The Old West where Destiny’s manifesto was an almost tangible concept that was somehow connected to the land, the climate, and one’s family.”
Didion’s themes also included earthquakes, movie stars, and Cuban exiles, but common themes emerged: the need to impose order where there is no order, the gap between accepted wisdom and real life, and the way people deceive themselves—and others—into believing that the world can be explained by a straight narrative line. Much of her nonfiction story was collected in the 2006 book We Tell Ourselves Stories in Order to Live, named after the opening sentence of her famous essay “The White Album,” a testament to one woman’s search for truth behind the truth. .
“We are looking for a sermon on suicide, for the social or moral lesson of killing five,” she wrote. We live entirely, especially if we are writers, by imposing a narrative line on disparate images, by ‘ideas’ with which we have been taught to freeze the shifting illusions that are our actual experience.
She was a lifelong explorer, writing about a trip to war-torn El Salvador in the realistic novel Salvador, and completing The Book of Common Prayer after a disastrous trip to a Colombian film festival in the early 1970s. “South and West: From a Notebook,” Observations Made While Driving Around the American South, was released in 2017, the same year Griffin Dunn’s nephew documentary Joan Didion: The Center Will Not Hold. In 2019, Library of America began compiling her work into bound volumes.
Didion prided herself on being an outsider, and more comfortable with gas station workers than celebrities. But she and her husband, whose brother was writer and journalist Dominic Dunn, were in good standing in high society. In California, they socialized with Warren Beatty and Steven Spielberg among others and young Harrison Ford worked as a carpenter in their home. They later lived in a spacious apartment on Manhattan’s Upper East Side, knew all the right people, had a successful side career as a screenwriter, and collaborated on “The Panic in Needle Park,” a remake of “A Star Is Born” and “A Star Is Born” Play it as it is and “Real Confessions”.
Born in 1934 in Sacramento, California and descended from pioneers who traveled with the infamous Donner Party, Didion was fascinated by books at a young age. Encouraged by her mother to write, as a way to fill the time, she was particularly influenced by the prose of Ernest Hemingway, whose laconic rhythms projected her rhythms. She was shy and ambitious, tending to be loners, but also determined to express herself through writing and oratory. She graduated from UC Berkeley in 1956 and moved to New York to work at Vogue after winning a magazine-sponsored writing competition.
Conservative in her early years, she voted for Republican Barry Goldwater in 1964 and contributed articles for William F. He was removed from his position due to his relationship with Monica Lewinsky. She was particularly scathing about the quality of political reporting, mocking the “inside baseball” press of presidential campaigns and dismissing Bob Woodward’s bestselling books as sloppy and voyeuristic, “political porn.”
Didion married Dunn, whom she met at a dinner party, in 1964. Two years later, they adopted a baby girl, Quintana Roo. Author couples are famous for their ability to burn, whether it’s the drunken quarrel between Lillian Hellman and Dashiell Hammett or the infidelity and suicidal demons of Ted Hughes and Sylvia Plath. But despite their own struggles, Didion says she and Dunn have grown and endured.
“Whatever problems we had were not caused by being a writer,” she told The Associated Press. “What was good for one was good for the other.”
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