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About Joan Didion
Joan Didion was born in California and lives in New York City. She is the author of five novels and seven previous books of nonfiction. Joan Didion's Where I Was From, Political Fictions, The Last Thing He Wanted, After Henry, Miami, Democracy, Salvador, A Book of Common Prayer, and Run River are available in Vintage paperback.
Photo by David Shankbone (David Shankbone) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0) or GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html)], via Wikimedia Commons.
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NATIONAL BOOK AWARD WINNER • NATIONAL BESTSELLER • From one of America’s iconic writers, a stunning book of electric honesty and passion that explores an intensely personal yet universal experience: a portrait of a marriage—and a life, in good times and bad—that will speak to anyone who has ever loved a husband or wife or child.
Several days before Christmas 2003, John Gregory Dunne and Joan Didion saw their only daughter, Quintana, fall ill with what seemed at first flu, then pneumonia, then complete septic shock. She was put into an induced coma and placed on life support. Days later—the night before New Year’s Eve—the Dunnes were just sitting down to dinner after visiting the hospital when John Gregory Dunne suffered a massive and fatal coronary. In a second, this close, symbiotic partnership of forty years was over. Four weeks later, their daughter pulled through. Two months after that, arriving at LAX, she collapsed and underwent six hours of brain surgery at UCLA Medical Center to relieve a massive hematoma.
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 ... about marriage and children and memory ... about the shallowness of sanity, about life itself.
Capturing the tumultuous landscape of the United States, and in particular California, during a pivotal era of social change, the first work of nonfiction from one of American literature’s most distinctive prose stylists is a modern classic.
In twenty razor-sharp essays that redefined the art of journalism, National Book Award–winning author Joan Didion reports on a society gripped by a deep generational divide, from the “misplaced children” dropping acid in San Francisco’s Haight-Ashbury district to Hollywood legend John Wayne filming his first picture after a bout with cancer. She paints indelible portraits of reclusive billionaire Howard Hughes and folk singer Joan Baez, “a personality before she was entirely a person,” and takes readers on eye-opening journeys to Death Valley, Hawaii, and Las Vegas, “the most extreme and allegorical of American settlements.”
First published in 1968, Slouching Towards Bethlehem has been heralded by the New York Times Book Review as “a rare display of some of the best prose written today in this country” and named to Time magazine’s list of the one hundred best and most influential nonfiction books. It is the definitive account of a terrifying and transformative decade in American history whose discordant reverberations continue to sound a half-century later.
Spare, elegant, and terrifying, Play It as It Lays is the unforgettable story of a woman and a society come undone.
Raised in the ghost town of Silver Wells, Nevada, Maria Wyeth is an ex-model and the star of two films directed by her estranged husband, Carter Lang. But in the spiritual desert of 1960s Los Angeles, Maria has lost the plot of her own life. Her daughter, Kate, was born with an “aberrant chemical in her brain.” Her long-troubled marriage has slipped beyond repair, and her disastrous love affairs and strained friendships provide little comfort. Her only escape is to get in her car and drive the freeway—in the fast lane with the radio turned up high—until it runs out “somewhere no place at all where the flawless burning concrete just stopped.” But every ride to nowhere, every sleepless night numbed by pills and booze and sex, makes it harder for Maria to find the meaning in another day.
Told with profound economy of style and a “vision as bleak and precise as Eliot’s in ‘The Wasteland’,” Play It as It Lays ruthlessly dissects the dark heart of the American dream (The New York Times). It is a searing masterpiece “from one of the very few writers of our time who approaches her terrible subject with absolute seriousness, with fear and humility and awe” (Joyce Carol Oates, The New York Times Book Review).
In this landmark essay collection, Joan Didion brilliantly interweaves her own “bad dreams” with those of a nation confronting the dark underside of 1960s counterculture.
From a jailhouse visit to Black Panther Party cofounder Huey Newton to witnessing First Lady of California Nancy Reagan pretend to pick flowers for the benefit of news cameras, Didion captures the paranoia and absurdity of the era with her signature blend of irony and insight. She takes readers to the “giddily splendid” Getty Museum in Los Angeles, the cool mountains of Bogotá, and the Jordanian Desert, where Bishop James Pike went to walk in Jesus’s footsteps—and died not far from his rented Ford Cortina. She anatomizes the culture of shopping malls—“toy garden cities in which no one lives but everyone consumes”—and exposes the contradictions and compromises of the women’s movement. In the iconic title essay, she documents her uneasy state of mind during the years leading up to and following the Manson murders—a terrifying crime that, in her memory, surprised no one.
Written in “a voice like no other in contemporary journalism,” The White Album is a masterpiece of literary reportage and a fearless work of autobiography by the National Book Award–winning author of The Year of Magical Thinking (The New York Times Book Review). Its power to electrify and inform remains undiminished nearly forty years after it was first published.
These twelve pieces from 1968 to 2000, never before gathered together, offer an illuminating glimpse into the mind and process of a legendary figure. They showcase Joan Didion's incisive reporting, her empathetic gaze, and her role as "an articulate witness to the most stubborn and intractable truths of our time" (The New York Times Book Review).
Here, Didion touches on topics ranging from newspapers ("the problem is not so much whether one trusts the news as to whether one finds it"), to the fantasy of San Simeon, to not getting into Stanford. In "Why I Write," Didion ponders the act of writing: "I write entirely to find out what I'm thinking, what I'm looking at, what I see and what it means." From her admiration for Hemingway's sentences to her acknowledgment that Martha Stewart's story is one "that has historically encouraged women in this country, even as it has threatened men," these essays are acutely and brilliantly observed. Each piece is classic Didion: incisive, bemused, and stunningly prescient.
NATIONAL BESTSELLER • A work of stunning frankness about losing a daughter, from the bestselling, award-winning author of The Year of Magical Thinking and Let Me Tell You What I Mean
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. Blue Nights—the long, light evening hours that signal the summer solstice, “the opposite of the dying of the brightness, but also its warning”—like The Year of Magical Thinking before it, is an iconic book of incisive and electric honesty, haunting and profound.
In these masterpieces of razor-sharp reportage, the National Book Award–winning and New York Times–bestselling author proves herself one of the premier essayists of the twentieth century, “an articulate witness to the most stubborn and intractable truths of our time” (Joyce Carol Oates, The New York Times Book Review).
Slouching Towards Bethlehem: America in the 1960s—a pivotal era of social change and generational divide. Here is Joan Didion on the “misplaced children” of Haight-Ashbury as well as John Wayne in Hollywood; folk singer Joan Baez and reclusive billionaire Howard Hughes; the extremes of both Death Valley and Las Vegas. Named to Time magazine’s list of the one hundred best and most influential nonfiction books, this is “a rare display of some of the best prose written today in this country” (The New York Times Book Review).
The White Album: A New York Times bestseller, this landmark essay collection confronts the dark aftermath of the 1960s. From a jailhouse visit to Huey Newton, cofounder of the Black Panther Party, to a recording session with The Doors, from the culture of shopping malls to the contradictions of the women’s movement, Joan Didion captures the paranoia and absurdity of the era with irony and insight. And in the iconic title essay, she documents her uneasy state of mind during the years leading up to and following the Manson murders—a terrifying crime that, in her memory, surprised no one.
After Henry: Whether reporting on a Hollywood murder or the “sideshows” of foreign wars, Joan Didion crystalizes her reputation as a brilliant essayist. Highlights include a portrait of the White House under the Reagans, two “actors on location”; an unexpected meditation on the Patty Hearst case; and an exposé on the racial divisions and class fault lines of New York City following the rape of the Central Park jogger. An indispensable collection from a writer on whom we can rely “to get the story straight” (Los Angeles Times).
Joan Didion, the bestselling, award-winning author of The Year of Magical Thinking and Let Me Tell You What I Mean, has always kept notebooks—of overheard dialogue, interviews, drafts of essays, copies of articles. Here are two extended excerpts from notebooks she kept in the 1970s; read together, they form a piercing view of the American political and cultural landscape.
“Notes on the South” traces a road trip that she and her husband, John Gregory Dunne, took through Louisiana, Mississippi, and Alabama. Her acute observations about the small towns they pass through, her interviews with local figures, and their preoccupation with race, class, and heritage suggest a South largely unchanged today.
“California Notes” began as an assignment from Rolling Stone on the Patty Hearst trial. Though Didion never wrote the piece, the time she spent watching the trial in San Francisco triggered thoughts about the West and her own upbringing in Sacramento. Here we not only see Didion’s signature irony and imagination in play, we’re also granted an illuminating glimpse into her mind and process.
From the bestselling, award-winning author of The Year of Magical Thinking: In this "arresting amalgam of memoir and historical timeline” (The Baltimore Sun), Didion—a native Californian—reassesses parts of her life, her work, her history, and ours.
Didion applies her scalpel-like intelligence to California's ethic of ruthless self-sufficiency in order to examine that ethic’s often tenuous relationship to reality. Combining history and reportage, memoir and literary criticism, Where I Was From explores California’s romances with land and water; its unacknowledged debts to railroads, aerospace, and big government; the disjunction between its code of individualism and its fetish for prisons.
Whether she is writing about her pioneer ancestors or privileged sexual predators, robber barons or writers (not excluding herself), Didion is an unparalleled observer, and this book is at once intellectually provocative and deeply personal.
The iconic writer's electrifying first novel is a story of marriage, murder and betrayal that only she could tell with such nuance, sympathy, and suspense—from the bestselling, award-winning author of The Year of Magical Thinking and Let Me Tell You What I Mean.
Everett McClellan and his wife, Lily, are the great-grandchildren of pioneers, and what happens to them is a tragic epilogue to the pioneer experience—a haunting portrait of a marriage whose wrong turns and betrayals are at once absolutely idiosyncratic and a razor-sharp commentary on the history of California.
In these eleven essays covering the national scene from Washington, DC; California; and New York, the acclaimed author of Slouching Towards Bethlehem and The White Album “capture[s] the mood of America” and confirms her reputation as one of our sharpest and most trustworthy cultural observers (The New York Times).
Whether dissecting the 1988 presidential campaign, exploring the commercialization of a Hollywood murder, or reporting on the “sideshows” of foreign wars, Joan Didion proves that she is one of the premier essayists of the twentieth century, “an articulate witness to the most stubborn and intractable truths of our time” (Joyce Carol Oates, The New York Times Book Review). Highlights include “In the Realm of the Fisher King,” a portrait of the White House under the stewardship of Ronald and Nancy Reagan, two “actors on location;” and “Girl of the Golden West,” a meditation on the Patty Hearst case that draws an unexpected and insightful parallel between the kidnapped heiress and the emigrants who settled California. “Sentimental Journeys” is a deeply felt study of New York media coverage of the brutal rape of a white investment banker in Central Park, a notorious crime that exposed the city’s racial and class fault lines.
Dedicated to Henry Robbins, Didion’s friend and editor from 1966 until his death in 1979, After Henry is an indispensable collection of “superior reporting and criticism” from a writer on whom we have relied for more than fifty years “to get the story straight” (Los Angeles Times).
In Miami, the National Book Award–winning author of The Year of Magical Thinking looks beyond postcard images of fluorescent waters, backlit islands, and pastel architecture to explore the murkier waters of a city on the edge.
From Fidel Castro and the Bay of Pigs invasion to Lee Harvey Oswald and the Kennedy assassination to Oliver North and the Iran–Contra affair, Joan Didion uncovers political intrigues and shadowy underworld connections, and documents the US government’s “seduction and betrayal” of the Cuban exile community in Dade County. She writes of hotels that offer “guerrilla discounts,” gun shops that advertise Father’s Day deals, and a real-estate market where “Unusual Security and Ready Access to the Ocean” are perks for wealthy homeowners looking to make a quick escape. With a booming drug trade, staggering racial and class inequities, and skyrocketing murder rates, Miami in the 1980s felt more like a Third World capital than a modern American city. Didion describes the violence, passion, and paranoia of these troubled times in arresting detail and “beautifully evocative prose” (The New York Times Book Review).
A vital report on an immigrant community traumatized by broken dreams and the cynicism of US foreign policy, Miami is a masterwork of literary journalism whose insights are timelier and more important than ever.