Novelist, essayist, critic and journalist Joan Didion died Thursday, December 23 from Parkinson’s disease.
Joan Didion, renowned American author and icon of new journalism, best known for books like Play It as It Lays, The White Album and The Year of Magical Thinking died Thursday, report it New York Times. She was 87 years old.
Didion died at her Manhattan home after battling Parkinson’s disease, a spokesperson for her editor confirmed. ” Didion was one of the country’s most incisive writers and one of the country’s most astute observers., can we read in the press release. His widely acclaimed works of fiction, essays and memoirs have received numerous accolades and are considered modern classics. “
Didion was a prolific and multifaceted writer, appreciated as much for her novels, memoirs and screenplays as for her essays, cultural critiques and investigative reporting. Early in her career, she was the resident California columnist at the height of her counterculture, and succeeded in creating a new genre of essay (the essay ” I’m leaving New York” ) with his famous article from 1967, ” Goodbye to All That“. Along with her husband, John Gregory Dunne, Didion wrote screenplays for films such as Panic in Needle Park, the 1976 adaptation of A star Is Born, and an adaptation of his own novel, Play It as It Lays.
In her extensive political reporting, she has covered everything from the civil war in El Salvador to American political campaigns; and as a critic, she studied how the media shaped the perception of big events (she published one of the first challenges to the guilty verdict in the Central Park Five case, which was later quashed) . In 2005 Didion won the National Book Award for Nonfiction and was nominated for the Pulitzer Prize for The Year of Magical Thinking, her memoirs recounting her life and grief after Dunne’s sudden death in 2003, as well as the fatal illness of her daughter Quintana.
Didion was born on December 5, 1934 in Sacramento, California. Her family had lived in the state for five generations, an apt biographical detail for a writer who would expertly capture the endless allure, promise, and underlying chaos of the Golden State.
” I grew up in a dangerous landscape, Didion said to The Paris Review in 1978. I think people are affected more than they think by the landscapes and the climate. Sacramento was a very extreme place. It was very flat, flatter than most people can imagine, and I still prefer the flat horizons. The climate in Sacramento was as extreme as the scenery. There were two rivers, and these rivers were swollen in the winter and dry in the summer. Winter was made of cold rain and fog. In summer, it was 38, 40, 45 degrees. These extremes affect the way you approach the world. It turns out that if you are a writer, extremes appear. This is not the case if you are selling insurance. “
Didion studied English at the University of California, Berkeley, and in her final year, she won an essay competition sponsored by Vogue. Rather than take advantage of the trip to Paris she had won, she travels to New York to work at the magazine and quickly passes from the position of advertising editor to that of associate editor. Along with his work for Vogue, Didion collaborates with several other magazines and publishes his first novel, Run, River, in 1963. After her stay in New York, during which she met and married Dunne, Didion returned to California and began to be noticed by his articles in Life and The Saturday Evening Post.
Part of the New Journalism movement, Didion’s reporting incorporates literary elements, mingling his meticulous observations of the world with deeply personal anecdotes. His dispatches on the idealism, glitter, and sordid aspects of 1960s California were collected in his famous 1968 collection, Slouching Towards Bethlehem.
In 1970, Didion published his second novel, Play It as It Lays, which tells the story of a struggling young actress who tries to break into Hollywood while facing a host of personal demons. Perhaps it is no coincidence that during this decade Didion and Dunne also made their own forays into Hollywood by writing screenplays: Panic in Needle Park (on a group of heroin addicts in New York) made Al Pacino a star, while their adaptation of A star Is Born, starring Barbra Streisand and Kris Kristofferson, was a box office success.
During the 1970s, Didion’s reports and works of fiction became increasingly political. His 1977 novel, A book of reason, takes place in a Central American country in the midst of revolutionary upheaval; a few years later, she reported in El Salvador on the civil war in that country. His 1984 novel, Democracy, told the story of a senator and CIA agent at the end of the Vietnam War, while his work on the Cuban community in exile in Miami became his 1987 book, Miami. Although she eventually moved away from more traditional political reporting, politics (and the way it is disseminated and interpreted by the mass media) remained at the center of her critiques and essays, which were later on. published in works like After Henry and Political Fictions.
At the turn of the new millennium, Didion remains fascinated by the history and the present of California, to which she returns in 2003 in Where I Was From. In 2017, in South and West: notebooks, she combined observations of her childhood in California with texts based on old notes taken during a trip with Dunne to the Deep South in the 1970s.
But one of his most acclaimed works remains The Year of Magical Thinking, adapted for the theater in 2007. In 2011, Didion published a complementary book, The blue of the night, in which she discusses the death of her daughter, as well as the education of children and aging. Both books are extremely personal and, in a 2012 conversation with author Sloane Crosley at the new york public library, Didion explained that her memoir echoed some of the earliest personal writings she had written for Vogue. ” [Beaucoup] many people have read these articles and, for the first time, I have been asked for advice on life. I hated it. I stopped writing these articles because I couldn’t take on this role, and I hadn’t written anything that got that kind of response until The Year of Magical Thinking ; [avec ce roman]suddenly people were talking to me at airports. Usually they had something really terrible happened to them, and I just learned to… not take it that personally. I learned that I could talk to them without taking it personally, so I didn’t have to stop writing. “
Translated by the editorial staff
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