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Ode to Joan Didion

Today I’m recommending My Year of Magical Thinking and Joan Didion’s other works today in honor of her death on Dec. 22 at the age of 87.

Joan is probably not someone I would have been friends with. She was at the top of high-end 1960s hipster scene. She “knew people” and had the literary chops to talk boldly about culture and celebrities in a way meant to grind down our illusion of humanity as anything but opportunistic.

Because she came from the generation before me, I didn’t discover Joan until the 1990s. When I started reading her fiction, however, I immediately felt a kinship from the fact both of us were journalists. Possessing zero tolerance for explanation, she wrote the facts of what characters did and said, then made the reader figure out the situation. And she captured that weird feature of conversations that turn out to be exceptionally important in our lives: the underlying message understood by those talking, but that never gets said.

She wrote in the way of “new journalism,” which is now known as creative nonfiction where the author doesn’t just report facts, but takes you on a journey that hopefully leads to enlightenment.

I highly recommend reading her memoir about the year her writer husband, Gregory Dunne, died.

Apparently there’s a 2017 documentary titled The Center Will Not Hold that was filmed by her nephew and that I haven’t seen, but plan to. Here’s a New Yorker article about the movie.

Looking through a list of Joan's books, I see there are a few I have yet to read. Time to do so.

What writer has shaped your world in the way Joan did mine?


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