Joan Didion, outstanding prose stylist, dies at 87

Joan Didion, the revered American author and essayist whose provocative social commentary and detached, methodical literary voice made her a particularly lucid critique of a particularly turbulent time, has passed away. She was 87 years old

Idion publisher Penguin Random House announced the author’s death on Thursday.

She died of complications from Parkinson’s disease, the company said.

“Didion was one of the country’s most astute writers and observers. His best-selling works of fiction, commentary and memoir have received numerous accolades and are considered modern classics, ”Penguin Random House said in a statement.

Writers always sell someoneJeanne Didion

Small and frail even a young woman, with big sad eyes, she was a novelist, journalist, playwright and essayist.

She was known for her cool and ruthless dissection of culture and politics, from hippies to presidential campaigns to the kidnapping of Patty Hearst. His collection of essays The White Album became standard reading, and Slouching Towards Bethlehem and Play It As It Lays became essential collections of literary journalism.

The Year of Magical Thinking is a classic grieving work that won the National Book Award.

Along with Tom Wolfe, Nora Ephron and Gay Talese, Didion reigned in the pantheon of “new journalists” who emerged in the 1960s and married literary style with non-fiction reporting.

Small and frail even as a young woman, with big, sad eyes often hidden behind sunglasses and a gentle, deliberate style of speaking, she was a novelist, playwright, and essayist who once observed that “I am so physically petite, so quiet in temperament, and so neurotically inarticulate that people tend to forget that my presence is against their best interests.

Or, as she more famously put it, “Writers are always selling someone. “

Didion received a National Humanities Medal in 2012, when she was praised for dedicating “her life to noticing things that others try not to see”.

For decades she had engaged in cold and ruthless dissection of politics and culture, from hippies to presidential campaigns to the kidnapping of Patty Hearst, and for her distrust of official history.

Slouching Towards Bethlehem, The White Album and other books have become essential collections of literary journalism, with notable writings including his elimination from Hollywood politics in Good Citizens and a prophetic dissent against the consensus that in 1989 five young black and Latino men had raped a white jogger in Central Park (the men’s convictions were later overturned and they were released from jail).

Didion was equally ruthless in the face of his own struggles. She was diagnosed in her thirties with multiple sclerosis and around the same time she had depression and went to a psychiatric clinic in Santa Monica, Calif., Who diagnosed her worldview as “basically pessimistic, fatalistic and depressive ”.

In her 70s, she gave an account of a personal tragedy in the heartbreaking 2005 work, The Year of Magical Thinking, a tale formed of the chaos of grief that followed the death of her husband and writing partner. , John Gregory Dunne. It won a National Book Award and she adapted it as a Broadway solo play starring Vanessa Redgrave.

Didion spent her final years in New York City, but she was more strongly identified with her native state of California, “a hologram that dematerializes as I walk through it.” It was the setting for his best-known novel, the desperate Play It As It Lays, and many of his essays.

“California belongs to Joan Didion,” wrote New York Times critic Michiko Kakutani. “Not California where everyone wears aviator sunglasses, owns a jacuzzi, and buys their clothes on Rodeo Drive. But California in the Western sense. The Old West where Manifest Destiny was an almost palpable notion that was somehow tied to the land and climate and its own family.

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