January 25, 2022

American writer Joan Didion is dead

Admired by feminists such as Nora Ephron and Lena Dunham, considered a major influence by Bret Easton Ellis, Jay McInerney and Donna Tartt for her novel Maria with and without anything (Robert Laffont, 2007), Joan Didion will have chronicled the history of contemporary America with lucidity and disenchantment for five decades. She died Thursday, December 23 in New York, at the age of 87, announced her publishing houses, cited by the New York Times and the Associated Press agency.

Joan Didion is born December 5, 1934 in Sacramento (California). She was 4 when her mother took her to see a pediatrician to stop screaming. This advises to find him a means of expression. As a young reader, she therefore began to write. During the Second World War, she dropped out of school because her father, too old for active service in the Air Force, held administrative positions in various military bases. All these trips will have a huge influence on her. Already shy, she feels perpetually a foreigner.

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First novel

A graduate of the University of Berkeley (San Francisco), Joan Didion won a writing competition at age 21. As a reward, she obtains, like the poet Sylvia Plath before, a post in the magazine Vogue. She published her first novel in 1963 (A season of nights, Grasset, 2014). It was in New York that she met the writer and essayist John Gregory Dunne, who collaborated on Time. They get married and form a prominent couple, as accomplices as they are fusional. Together, they will collaborate on several scenarios: Panic in Needle Park (1971), A star Is Born (1976), Bloody confessions (1981), inspired by the “black Dahlia” case, and Personal and confidential (1996).

Both decided to move to Los Angeles in 1964. At home, they received Janis Joplin, Roman Polanski, Warren Beatty, Steven Spielberg or Brian de Palma. At the time, Joan Didion drove a yellow Corvette and had a suitcase always ready to go on a report. She contributes to various magazines (The Saturday Evening Post, Life, Esquire, The New York Times, New York Review of Books, etc.), meets Joan Baez or John Wayne on the set of Four sons of Katie Elder.

In the spring of 1968, she was in the Sunset Boulevard studio where the Doors recorded an album. “The Doors music affirmed that love was sex, and sex was death, and that was where salvation was. “ Joan Didion also hangs out with runaways and drug addicts in the Haight-Ashbury neighborhood. She visits in prison the black activist Huey P. Newton, leader of the Black Panthers, accused of having killed a white policeman and goes to the campus of San Francisco State College where the police repress revolutionary protest.

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