All About Joan Didion

Joan Didion (1934-2021) was the National Book Award-winning author of many works of fiction and nonfiction. After earning a Bachelor’s degree in English at the University of California, Berkeley, she started her literary career writing articles and essays for Vogue, Mademoiselle, Life, The Saturday Evening Post, and National Review, establishing herself as a prominent member of the New Journalism movement. Her books include The White Album, Play It As It Lays, and Slouching Towards Bethlehem.

Shortlisted for the Pulitzer Prize, Didion’s revelatory memoir The Year of Magical Thinking was adapted as a one-woman stage show starring Vanessa Redgrave on Broadway. She also wrote several screenplays with her husband John Gregory Dunne, including Panic in Needle Park with Al Pacino, the second remake of A Star is Born with Barbra Streisand and Kris Kristofferson, and an adaptation of her own Play It As It Lays with Tuesday Weld and Anthony Perkins.

Witness a portrait of one of the most influential American writers of the 20th century in Joan Didion: The Center Will Now Hold, directed by Griffin Dunne.

"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." (The Year Of Magical Thinking)

Slouching Towards Bethlehem (1968)

Joan Didion's savage masterpiece has been acknowledged as an unparalleled report on the state of America during the upheaval of the Sixties Revolution. Didion not only describes the subject at hand--her younger self loving and leaving New York, the murderous housewife, the little girl trailing the rock group, the millionaire bunkered in his mansion--but also offers a broader vision of the world, one that is both terrifying and tender, ominous and uniquely her own.

Play It As It Lays (1970)

Set in a place beyond good and evil---literally in Hollywood, Las Vegas, and the barren wastes of the Mojave Desert, but figuratively in the landscape of an arid soul---it remains more than three decades after its original publication a profoundly disturbing novel, riveting in its exploration of a woman and a society in crisis and stunning in the still-startling intensity of its prose.

The White Album (1979)

In this now legendary journey into the hinterland of the American psyche, Didion searches for stories as the Sixties implode. She waits for Jim Morrison to show up, visits the Black Panthers in prison, parties with Janis Joplin and buys dresses with Charles Manson’s girls. She and her reader emerge, cauterized, from this devastating tour of that age of self discovery into the harsh light of the morning after.

Salvador (1983)

El Salvador, 1982, is at the height of a ghastly civil war. Joan Didion travels from battlefields to body dumps, interviews a puppet president, considers the distinctly Salvadorean meaning of the verb 'to disappear' and trains a merciless eye not only on the terror there but also on the depredations and evasions of US foreign policy.

Miami (1987)

It is where Castro raised the money to overthrow Batista. It is where generations of Castro's enemies raised armies to overthrow him, without success. It has been at the centre of American political intrigue from the Bay of Pigs to the Kennedy assassination to the Watergate break-in. The year is 1987. The city is Miami, and nobody has ever observed its pastel surfaces and murky intrigues more astutely than Joan Didion.

The Last Thing He Wanted (1996)

It is 1984 and rumblings of the Iran-Contra Affair are just beginning to stir. Out-of-work journalist Elena McMahon watches as her evasive, gruff father's life slowly ebbs away. Rudderless and lost, she feels compelled by a desire to understand him and resolves to do his bidding, to follow the action to Central America. What begins as Elena's emotional journey soon becomes a cog in a much larger wheel, setting in motion a powerful political machine of intrigue and violence, political opportunism and murky underworld dealings.

Political Fictions (2001)

In these coolly observant essays, Joan Didion looks at the American political process and at "that handful of insiders who invent, year in and year out, the narrative of public life." She tells us the uncomfortable truth about the way we vote, the candidates we vote for, and the people who tell us to vote for them. These pieces build, one on the other, into a disturbing portrait of the American political landscape, providing essential reading on our democracy.

The Year Of Magical Thinking (2005)

John Gregory Dunne and Joan Didion saw their daughter fall ill. At first they thought it was flu, then she was placed on life support. Days later, the Dunnes were sitting down to dinner when John suffered a massive and fatal coronary.

This powerful book is Didion's 'attempt to make sense of the weeks and then months that cut loose any fixed idea I ever had about death, about illness'. The result is a personal yet universal portrait of marriage and life, in good times and bad, from one of the defining voices of American literature.

Blue Nights (2011)

Richly textured with memories from her own childhood and married life with her husband, John Gregory Dunne, and daughter, Quintana Roo, this new book by Joan Didion is an intensely personal and moving account of her thoughts, fears, and doubts regarding having children, illness and growing old.

As she reflects on her daughter’s life and on her role as a parent, Didion grapples with the candid questions that all parents face, and contemplates her age, something she finds hard to acknowledge, much less accept.

South And West (2017)

Joan Didion has always kept notebooks: of overheard dialogue, observations, interviews, drafts of essays and articles.

Here is one such draft that traces a road trip she took with her husband, John Gregory Dunne, in June 1970, through Louisiana, Mississippi, and Alabama. And from a different notebook: the “California Notes” that began as an assignment from Rolling Stone on the Patty Hearst trial of 1976. Here, too, is the beginning of her thinking about the West, its landscape, the western women who were heroic for her, and her own lineage.

Let Me Tell You What I Mean (2021)

From one of our most iconic and influential writers: a timeless collection of mostly early pieces that reveal what would become Joan Didion's subjects, including the press, politics, California robber barons, women, and her own self-doubt.

These twelve pieces from 1968 to 2000, never before gathered together, showcase Didion's incisive reporting, her empathetic gaze, and her role as "an articulate witness to the most stubborn and intractable truths of our time."