Joan Didion was an American writer, journalist, and screenwriter. Her novels and essays explore the disintegration of American morals and cultural chaos, with individual and social fragmentation as the predominant theme. A sense of anxiety or fear pervades much of her work. In 2013, she was awarded the National Medal of Arts by President Barack Obama.
Joan Didion was born in Sacramento, California, and lives in New York City. Her mother had presented her, aged five, a notebook and a suggestion that she calm her anxious self by writing.
As a teenager, Joan Didion typed out chapters from Hemingway novels to see how they worked. She was deeply influenced by Hemingway’s handling of dialogue and silence. Joseph Conrad was another formative influence.
Didion constructed a tripartite career devoted to reporting, screenwriting, and fiction. It all began with began in the 1950s after she won an essay contest sponsored by Vogue. Turning down a trip to Paris, the top prize, she went straight to work at the magazine. During her seven years at Vogue, from 1956 to 1964, Didion worked her way up from promotional copywriter to associate feature editor. She was writing on topics like “Jealousy: Is It a Curable Illness?”
The debut novel of Joan Didion, Run, River, about the unraveling of a Sacramento family, was first published in 1963. John Gregory Dunne, a staffer on Time magazine and also her future husband, edited it. Together they moved to California and started writing screenplays. They also adopted a daughter, Quintana Roo, taking her name from the Mexican state, which they had chanced upon while looking at a map.
Didion’s book of collected journalism, Slouching Towards Bethlehem, published in 1968 established her reputation for cool and became a cult. Slouching Towards Bethlehem has been described as an example of New Journalism. The New York Times referred to it as containing "grace, sophistication, nuance, [and] irony".
In 1970, the coupe wrote the screenplay for Panic in Needle Park, a film that gave Al Pacino his first starring role.
Her second novel, Play It As It Lays (1970), was included by Time magazine in its "100 Best English-Language Novels from 1923 to 2005". The book was made into a 1972 movie starring Tuesday Weld and Anthony Perkins. But the adaptation flopped.
The real success came with the script A Star Is Born. With Barbra Streisand and Kris Kristofferson starring, the film became a big box office success.
Didion and her husband later collaborated on True Confessions, the film version of Mr. Dunne’s 1977 novel, starring Robert De Niro and Robert Duvall, and Up Close and Personal (1996), a television-news drama with Robert Redford and Michelle Pfeiffer.
Didon wrote many essays on the topic of politics and the social structure of society. Her best and most successful novel, Democracy (1984), tells about an exploration of private connections to public power.
Her husband died of a heart attack at 71 in 2003. Two years later, Quintana Roo Dunne died of pancreatitis and septic shock at 39. Ms. Didion wrote about her husband’s death and her daughter’s illness in “The Year of Magical Thinking” (2005). It won the National Book Award for Nonfiction and was a finalist for both the National Book Critics Circle Award and the Pulitzer Prize.
Joan Didion died at age 87in her Manhattan home. The cause was complications of Parkinson’s disease.