Culture

Acclaimed American Writer Joan Didion Dies at 87

Due to complications from Parkinson’s disease.

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Acclaimed American Writer Joan Didion Dies at 87

Due to complications from Parkinson’s disease.

Master of prose and astute cultural observations, American writer Joan Didion has died at age 87. Didion’s death was due to complications from Parkinson’s disease.

Didion rose to fame for her precise and cutting ability to capture the mood of American culture, namely the novelist’s native state of California at the height of the slightly hedonistic and chaotic ‘60s and ’70s.

Her debut essay collection, Slouching Towards Bethlehem, is a testament to the memoirist’s latent talent for witnessing and articulating the nuances of life without judgement. Initially published in 1968, the literary work is a deep dive into the counterculture of the West Coast at the height of its Woodstock era.

After spending her adolescence rewriting Ernest Hemingway’s prose, Didion went on to work for Vogue, forgoing a trip to Paris. Working as an assistant from 1956 to 1964, Didion crafted one of her seminal essays, On Self-Respect, in 1961, which was written to an exact character count.

Reflecting on the bittersweet heartbreak of growing up and earnest self-improvement, Didion wrote in her essay, “I think we are well-advised to keep on nodding terms with the people we used to be, whether we find them attractive company or not. Otherwise, they turn up unannounced and surprise us, come hammering on the mind’s door at 4 a.m. of a bad night and demand to know who deserted them, who betrayed them, who is going to make amends.”

“We forget all too soon the things we thought we could never forget,” she continued. “We forget the loves and the betrayals alike, forget what we whispered and what we screamed, forget who we were.”

Didion’s husband, John Gregory Dunne, died from a heart attack in 2005. Their daughter, Quintana Roo, died at age 39 and was the subject of Didion’s novel Blue Nights.

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