Joan Didion, famous American essayist and novelist, has died

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(CNN) – Famous American writer Joan Didion, an essayist and novelist who rose to prominence in the 1960s, has died at the age of 87, her editor confirmed to CNN on Thursday.

“We are deeply saddened to announce that Joan Didion passed away earlier this morning at her home in New York City due to complications from Parkinson’s disease,” Paul Bogaards, publicity manager at AA Knopf, said in a statement. .

Didion was a leading figure in the New Journalism movement in the 1960s and 1970s, and she began her career with articles in Life magazine and other publications, capturing the turmoil of American life in the Age of after war. During her prolific career, she has published several volumes of essays, non-fiction books, memoirs, novels and screenplays.

She was known for her distinctive prose and rose to fame with collections of essays such as “Slouching Towards Bethlehem” from 1968 and “The White Album” from 1979. Her memoir “The Year of Magical Thinking” won the National Book Award. for Nonfiction in 2005. In 2013, former President Barack Obama awarded Didion the National Humanities Medal in the East Room of the White House, calling her “one of our respected observers of American politics and culture. . “

For many, Didion’s writing was unprecedented. “No one writes better English prose than Joan Didion,” critic John Leonard said in a review of “The White Album,” according to the New York Times. “Try rearranging one of his sentences, and you realized that the sentence was inevitable, a hologram.”

Despite his small size, Didion was a giant in and beyond literary circles, with novelist Bret Easton Ellis once calling him “the most important writer to me”. Authors Eve Babitz and Bell Hooks also passed away recently, and following Didion’s death acclaimed writer Roxanne Gay wrote on Twitter that it was “another staggering loss”.

Californian roots

Originally from Sacramento, Didion moved to New York City after graduating from the University of California at Berkeley, where she started working for Vogue, according to Bogaards.

While rising through the ranks of fashion magazine, Didion met and married John Gregory Dunne, a Time reporter with whom she collaborated on screenplays such as “The Panic in Needle Park”, known for the groundbreaking performance of Al Pacino. , and the 1976 version of “A Star is Born”, starring Barbra Streisand and Kris Kristofferson.

Didion traveled back and forth between California and New York during his career, and the two states served as inspiration for his writing. Her 1967 essay “Goodbye to All That”, on why she was leaving New York City, became a lasting influence on the format of the essay. The following year, she published “Slouching Through Bethlehem”, which takes place mainly in California, which reinforces her status as a passionate columnist of the intimate and the everyday.

“The White Album” also provided a sharp insight into its original state, with its cold but searing portrayals of the West Coast counterculture, the Manson murders, and the rapidly changing political landscape. The title essay was named in 2013 as one of Publishers Weekly’s 10 Most Important Essays since 1950 and begins with one of Didion’s best-known lines: “We tell each other stories for a living”.

Didion was known for her effortless and minimal personal style as well as her incisive writing, and her fashion choices Рlong-sleeved knits, oversized sunglasses, and straight dresses Рhave been the subject of much writing. At 80, Didion was hired by Phoebe Philo, who then ran the French fashion house C̩line, to star in several commercials for the brand, photographed by Juergen Teller.

In 2014, Vogue’s Alessandra Codinha described Didion as “an intellectual and otherwise dreamy immortal girl”, presenting as evidence Didion’s own famous and accurate packing list which consisted of just over two skirts, a sweater and bourbon.

Examine grief

Didion’s personal life has been marked by loss and she has examined grief at length in her work. In 2003, Didion’s husband died of a heart attack while their daughter, Quintana Roo Dunne, was in hospital, recovering from septic shock. Didion wrote about caring for her daughter while dealing with her husband’s death in 2005 “The Year of Magical Thinking,” which in 2007 became a Broadway play starring Vanessa Redgrave.

“’Year of Magical Thinking’ was the first book I can remember reading with the intention of trying to understand grief,” poet and writer Saeed Jones said in a tribute to Didion on Twitter. “It was so foreign to me at the time; I felt like Joan Didion (also a foreigner to me at the time) was explaining that my life bordered on a country I hadn’t realized existed. “

Less than two years after the death of Didion’s husband, his daughter died at age 39 after years of illness and injury. Didion once again recounted her grieving experience on “Blue Nights” in 2011, in which she also questioned her weaknesses as a mother.

In 2017, she reflected on her career and personal losses in the Netflix documentary “The Center Will Not Hold”, directed by her nephew Griffin Dune. In it, she describes how writing has always been a tool for her, saying, “I always found that if I looked at something it was less scary.

As a tribute to Didion, his editor AA Knopf posted on Instagram Didion’s thoughts on the mortality of “The Year of Magical Thinking”.

“We are not idealized wild beings,” she wrote. “We are imperfect mortal beings, aware of this mortality even as we push it aside, stranded by our very complication, so hard-wired that when we mourn our losses we too, for better or for worse, ourselves. we were, as we are no longer, as we will not be at all one day.

This story first appeared on CNN.com “Joan Didion, famous American essayist and novelist, is deceased”


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