Joan Didion, an American fiction author, was a California native who strived to impact the world through her poignant, highly political prose. Didion’s impenetrable relationship with depicting societal unrest throughout California is of most special remembrance. For lack of a better term, Didion established this “obsession” when a magazine column published her essays in 1968. Throughout Didion’s lifetime, she would dance on the coattails of sorrow even as she penned a memoir attempting to come to terms with her husband and daughters’ death. Ultimately, she would be presented with the National Humanities Medal in 2013 and produce a documentary focusing on her life and career titled Joan Didion: The Center Will Not Hold (2017).
A Notable Obsession with Unrest
Joan Didion spoke freely regarding her infatuation with social disorder, eliciting memories of childhood stories that lay the foundation for her future narratives. When interviewed for Best Books of 2021, Didion herself proclaims herself not to be an inspirational writer, but a writer entranced and focused on control. Didion further illustrates such fascination with emotional turmoil by memorializing her late husband, John Gregory Dunne, in The Year of Magical Thinking, which Best Books of 2021 coined as “the modern grief memoir.” With such notable influence and ability to pen moving, relatable prose, Didion continuously contributed to literary advancement as she created novels, drafted screenplays, and researched reports. This harmonious reconciliation between sadness and growth is a keynote to remember Joan Didion.
A Lifetime of Work Leads to 2013 Award
Though Didion authored various genres of prose, there was always a particular purpose or meaning, some guidance that lay within the words of the pages. Though at times critical, even cynical, Didion sought to embody the personality and mood of contemporary culture. This attempt at embodiment led Didion to write numerous political essays relating to the civil war in El Salvador were published, further extending Joan Didion’s library of genres. The writing she presented and the vulnerability she allowed are elements to be fondly remembered.
The Final Work
Following a life of continued success, Joan Didion would commit her time and talent to produce a documentary chronicling her life and career. Joan Didion: The Center Will Not Hold presents the life and work of Joan Didion in an open admiring stance, honing in on her entanglement with grief and sorrow. Through this documentary, Didion presented a final culmination of her life and work while still highlighting racial divides and political grievances through her work. Many praise the documentary as an accurate capturing of Didion’s literary legacy.
Overall, Didion made many notable contributions through her various styles of writing. She freely expressed sorrow and sadness within her literary works, resulting in prose transcending time. Remembering Joan Didion means remembering how easy it is for one individual to make a lasting impact on society.
Photo credits: David Shankbone, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons