October 2, 2022
Joan Didion

Joan Didion, groundbreaking journalist, memoirist, novelist, and screenwriter, dies at 87

Joan Didion, the groundbreaking journalist, memoirist, novelist, and screenwriter, died on Thursday at her house in Manhattan. She was 87.

Her dying was confirmed by the New York Times, which reported that in accordance with Paul Bogaards, an government at Didion’s writer Knopf, the writer died from Parkinson’s illness.

Knopf additionally put out an announcement on Instagram, sharing a well-liked quote from the writer’s well-known Yr of Magical Considering that learn, “We are not idealized wild things. We are imperfect mortal beings, aware of that mortality even as we push it away, failed by our very complication, so wired that when we mourn our losses we also mourn, for better or for worse, ourselves. As we were. As we are no longer. As we will one day not be at all.”

Following information of her dying, the literary world reacted to the passing of a cultural titan.

“I’ve loved feared the day Didion died…we are in for some truly terrible person essays,” tweeted writer Rumaan Alam.

“YEAR OF MAGICAL THINKING was the first book I can recall picking up to read with the intention of trying to understand grief,” tweeted How We Struggle For Our Lives writer Saeed Jones. “It was so foreign to me then; it felt like Joan Didion (also foreign to me then) was explaining that my life bordered a country I hadn’t realized existed.”

Born in 1934, it is onerous to pinpoint which style most outlined Didion – or which style Didion did most to outline — however she made her earliest mark as a younger reporter. She graduated from Berkeley in 1956, the place she received an essay contest that secured her a job at Vogue. There, in her twenties, she edited options whereas writing long-form columns, reminiscent of “On Self-Respect,” which has since been extensively quoted. In 1968, she revealed maybe her most cited guide, Slouching Towards Bethlehem, a set of journal items. Slouching Towards Bethlehem explored Didion’s house state of California and turned a touchstone of New Journalism, an rising kind that mixed reporting, narrative voice, and literary gadgets.

Didion revealed her first novel, Run, River, in 1963, to lukewarm opinions, however she received later acclaim with novels A E book of Widespread Prayer and Play It as It Lays, which she herself tailored right into a screenplay. As along with her journalism, Didion’s fiction was notable for its spare, muscular prose — Didion pointed to Ernest Hemingway as inspiration – and a stark sense of dread that permeated her work.

Joan Didion. | Credit score: Janet Fries/Getty Pictures

Throughout her Vogue years, Didion met Time author John Gregory Dunne. They married in 1965. Collectively, they turned a real literary energy couple, holding properties in Manhattan and Hollywood. They collaborated on screenplays The Panic in Needle Park, A Star Is Born, True Confessions, and Up Shut & Private.

After almost 40 years of marriage, Dunne died of cardiac arrest on Dec. 30, 2003. Simply 5 days earlier, their solely daughter, Quintana Roo, had fallen right into a coma after issues of pneumonia. Didion chronicled her grief within the wake of Dunne’s dying and her experiences caring for Quintana in her 2005 memoir, A Yr of Magical Considering, which received the Nationwide E book Award For Nonfiction and was tailored by Didion right into a Broadway play starring Vanessa Redgrave.

Joan Didion, her husband John Gregory Dunne, and their daughter Quintana Roo.

Quintana regained consciousness weeks after her father’s dying however battled different well being issues till her dying on Aug. 26, 2005, shortly earlier than the publication of The Yr of Magical Considering. As an alternative of adjusting the manuscript to incorporate the tragic developments, Didion mirrored on ageing, loss, and her sophisticated relationship along with her daughter in her 2011 memoir, Blue Nights.

Didion’s most up-to-date works embrace South and West: From a Pocket book, which was revealed in 2017, and a set of essays titled Let Me Tell You What I Mean, which was revealed earlier this yr. The writer was additionally the topic of a latest Netflix documentary titled Joan Didion: The Heart Will Not Maintain.

Joan Didion. | Credit score: Everett/Shutterstock

Didion wrote in all completely different genres, codecs, and about myriad subjects as a result of to her it was like respiration. Her most repeated quote — which hangs over many aspiring writers’ desks — got here from her 1976 New York Instances essay “Why I Write”: “I write entirely to find out what I’m thinking, what I’m looking at, what I see and what it means. What I want and what I fear.”

Extra reporting by Stephen Lee.