Joan Didion Biography, Wiki, Age, Career, Death, Cause of Death | Who was John Didion? Bio, Wiki

Spread the love

Who was John Didion?

Joan Didion (December 5, 1934 – December 23, 2021) was an American writer who launched her career in the 1960s after winning an essay contest sponsored by Vogue magazine. 

Her writing during the 1960s through the late 1970s engaged audiences in the realities of the counterculture of the ’60s and the Hollywood lifestyle. Her political writing often concentrated on the subtext of political and social rhetoric.

In 1991, she wrote the earliest mainstream media article to suggest the Central Park Five had been wrongfully convicted. 

In 2005, she won the National Book Award for Nonfiction and was a finalist for both the National Book Critics Circle Award and the Pulitzer Prize for Biography/Autobiography for The Year of Magical Thinking.

She later adapted the book into a play, which premiered on Broadway in 2007. In 2017, Didion was profiled in the Netflix documentary The Center Will Not Hold, directed by her nephew Griffin Dunne.

Joan Didion, peerless prose stylist, dies at 87

Joan Didion, peerless prose stylist, dies at 87
Joan Didion, peerless prose stylist, dies at 87

 Joan Didion, the revered author and essayist whose precise social and personal commentary in such classics as “The White Album” and “The Year of Magical Thinking” made her a uniquely clear-eyed critic of turbulent times, has died. She was 87.

Didion’s publisher Penguin Random House announced the author’s death on Thursday. She died from complications from Parkinson’s disease, the company said.

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

Along with Tom Wolfe, Nora Ephron and Gay Talese, Didion reigned in the pantheon of “New Journalists” who emerged in the 1960s and wedded literary style to nonfiction reporting. Tiny and frail even as a young woman, with large, sad eyes often hidden behind sun glasses and a soft, deliberate style of speaking, she was a novelist, playwright and essayist who once observed that “I am so physically small, so temperamentally unobtrusive, and so neurotically inarticulate that people tend to forget that my presence runs counter to their best interests.”

Or, as she more famously put it: “Writers are always selling somebody out.”

Didion received a National Humanities Medal in 2012, when she was praised for devoting “her life to noticing things other people strive not to see.” For decades, she had engaged in the cool and ruthless dissection of politics and culture, from hippies to presidential campaigns to the kidnapping of Patty Hearst, and for her distrust of official stories.

“Slouching Towards Bethlehem,” “The White Album” and other books became essential collections of literary journalism, with notable writings including her takedown of 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 freed from prison).

Author Susan Orlean called Didion “my idol and inspiration” on Twitter.

Didion was equally unsparing about her own struggles. She was diagnosed in her 30s with multiple sclerosis and around the same time suffered a breakdown and checked into a psychiatric clinic in Santa Monica, California that diagnosed her worldview as “fundamentally pessimistic, fatalistic and depressive.”

In her 70s, she reported on personal tragedy in the heartbreaking 2005 work, “The Year of Magical Thinking,” a narrative formed out 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 one-woman Broadway play that starred Vanessa Redgrave.

Dunne had collapsed in 2003 at their table and died of a heart attack even as their daughter, Quintana Roo Dunne Michael, was gravely ill in a hospital. The memoir was a best-seller and a near-instant standard, the kind of work people would instinctively reach for after losing a loved one.

Didion said she thought of the work as a testament of a specific time; tragically, “Magical Thinking” became dated shortly after it was published. Quintana died during the summer of 2005 at age 39 of acute pancreatitis. Didion wrote of her daughter’s death in the 2011 publication “Blue Nights.”

“We have kind of evolved into a society where grieving is totally hidden. It doesn’t take place in our family. It takes place not at all,” she told The Associated Press in 2005. Didion spent her later years in New York, but she was most strongly identified with her native state of California, “a hologram that dematerializes as I drive through it.” It was the setting for her best known novel, the despairing “Play It As It Lays,” and for many of her essays.

Joan Didion Biography, Wiki

Joan Didion was born December 5, 1934, in Sacramento, California, the daughter of Frank Reese and Eduene (Jerrett) Didion. As a child, Didion followed her father, an officer in the Army Air Corps and a World War II veteran, to military bases in Colorado and Michigan.

The family ultimately settled in California, where Didion graduated from the University of California at Berkeley in 1956.

After college, Didion moved to New York for a job as a promotional copywriter at Vogue magazine. Her subsequent moves between the east and west coasts of the United States have colored her writing.

A contributor to American Writers: A Collection of Literary Biographies, asserted, “A California native, Didion suffers the regional insecurities of those with ambitions defined by the Eastern publishing establishment. As the westward trek had weathered her ancestors, the journey back East tested her literary stamina and achievement without softening her Western perspective.”

During her eight years at Vogue, Didion rose to the post of associate features editor and had begun contributing book and film reviews to National Review and Mademoiselle. 

She moved to California with her husband, John Gregory Dunne, to launch her career as a freelance writer. Despite a rocky start, Didion soon drew acclaim for her essays.

Joan Didion Biography Wikipedia
Joan Didion
BornDecember 5, 1934
Sacramento, California, U.S.
DiedDecember 23, 2021 (aged 87)
New York City, U.S.
EducationThe University of California, Berkeley (BA)
Literary movementNew Journalism
Notable worksSlouching Towards Bethlehem (1968)
Play It as It Lays (1970)
The Year of Magical Thinking (2005)
SpouseJohn Gregory Dunne​​(m. 1964; died 2003)​
RelativesDominick Dunne (brother-in-law)
Griffin Dunne (nephew)
Dominique Dunne (niece)

Joan Didion Career

While studying she took part in an essay competition held by the famous Vogue magazine which she won and was offered a job.

Didion continued her work zealously as a copywriter and was later promoted to associate feature editor post. During her years at the Vogue she began writing her first fictional work Run, River which was published in 1963. In the span of five years she wrote a non-fiction book, titled Slouching Towards Bethlehem (1981).

The book is based on a collection of magazine articles that details her experience in California. Another book of the same nature by the title The White Album was published in 1979.

One of her novels, entitled Democracy, was published in 1984. It illustrates the story of a wealthy heiress and her love affair with a CIA officer, who is a lot older than her. The book is set at the end of the Cold War and the Vietnam conflict in Hawaii and Southeast Asia.

The novel is claimed to be unusual for its narrative technique. The narrator of the story does not belong to the world it is set in but an outsider and that is Didion herself. It gave her the opportunity to elaborate on and defend the choice of her theme and plot.

The time this novel was first published it received positive and encouraging reviews for the literary style the author had employed. However, later the critics argued over the elements of the novel and criticized the use of realism in the novel which undermined its style and plot.

In addition to fiction writing, Joan Didion has produced numerous literary essays. After spending about two weeks in El Salvador with her husband, she penned an essay Salvador. It was a book-length essay, published in 1983, addressing the American involvement in El Salvador.

She wrote another 12 essays of geographical nature in her collection, After Henry, that was published in 1992. She reverted to writing fiction in 1996 and produced The Last Thing He Wanted.

It was a typical romantic thriller involving American military forces, spies, international conspiracies and imminent danger looming over protagonist’s head.

Didion and her husband, Dunne, both collaborated on several writing projects. They have co-written numerous screenplays. They adapted Didion’s novel Play It As It Lays into a screenplay.

2003 was a tragic year for Didion as her husband suffered a fatal heart attack and her daughter went into a coma caused by pneumonia. She took her husband’s demise and daughter’s illness very gravely which she narrated in her book The Year of Magical Thinking. She found consolation in writing the book which proved to be a therapeutic exercise for her.

Joan Didion Husband

While in New York and working at Vogue, Didion met John Gregory Dunne, her future husband, who was writing for Time magazine. He was the younger brother of the author, businessman, and television mystery show host Dominick Dunne.

Joan Didion with husband John Gregory Dunne
Joan Didion with husband John Gregory Dunne

The couple married in 1964 and moved to Los Angeles, intending to stay only temporarily, but California ultimately became their home for the next 20 years.

Their daughter, Quintana Roo Dunne, was born on March 3, 1966, in New York City and was adopted later that year.

Joan Didion FAQ’s

Who was Joan Didion?

Joan Didion (December 5, 1934 – December 23, 2021) was an American writer who launched her career in the 1960s after winning an essay contest sponsored by Vogue magazine. 

How did Joan Didion die?

Didion’s publisher Penguin Random House announced the author’s death on Thursday. She died from complications from Parkinson’s disease, the company said.

How old was Joan Didion?

Joan Didio died at 87.

Also Read: