Are you a writer? Do you admire the writing of Joan Didion? Do you want to express this admiration? Here's a good way to do it: Read some Didion to yourself, and then go out and write a good essay about something, in a voice that sounds like you and reflects your era.
Didion's talent is Mozartian, building simultaneously on several scales, in several registers—and always with a razor arc of finely tuned control.
Joan Didion has done a lot of different things in her work, but she hasn't turned Mozart's scores into a razor and then thrown that razor through the air, transmuting that into a well-tuned piano or guitar in the course of its arc. Nor has she composed many passages as sociopathic as this:
Then, when she was on the cusp of her seventies, death in the family tore her life apart.
The books that narrated that crisis, The Year of Magical Thinking and Blue Nights, brought Didion mainstream popularity. It's often assumed that this was due to their heartrending subject matter—the death of Didion's husband, John Gregory Dunne, and of her daughter, Quintana Roo Dunne. Yet many people have written frank accounts of wrenching family losses; few catch the national imagination so vividly. Didion was specially equipped to write these books because, in some sense, they were works for which she'd been rehearsing all her working life.
Fortunate readers, fortunate book marketplace, that Joan Didion's talents should so perfectly suit the occasion of the deaths of her family. Back-to-back hits! (Cf. BuzzFeed, yesterday: "A Father Sings to His Dying Newborn Son After His Wife Dies Following Childbirth / The video has spread across the world.")
[Photograph via Getty]