Culture Connoisseur: Joan Didion

I love this whole series of photos. When I have my own office, this is definitely being printed and hung in it.
I love this whole series with her and the car. When I have my own office, this is definitely being printed and hung on the wall.

As an English major, I’ve read a lot of books. There have been books I thoroughly enjoyed (Infinite Jest or Absalom, Absalom! for example), books I thought were just okay (Animal Farm and Of Mice and Men) and books I really really really really disliked (Huckleberry Finn and The Fault in Our Stars). And although I can wax poetic about David Foster Wallace’s genius or William Faulkner’s complex narrative style, there’s really only one author that I deeply connect with.

Her name is Joan Didion.

It’s difficult to delineate just what Joan Didion means to me. I’ve thoroughly enjoyed her books that I’ve picked up, but it’s more than the “that was a great book” feeling. Her essay collection Slouching Towards Bethlehem planted the seed in my head that I could do something with journalism besides hard news, which changed my life. I hope to master the art of writing as well as she has.

If you’re interested in writing that is raw and articulated with the utmost precision, Joan Didion is for you. I don’t want to spoil you, so I won’t post any of my favorite quotes. I recommend starting with the mind-blowing On Keeping A Notebook, the uncanny Goodbye to All That, or the incredible The Year of Magical Thinking.

Today, I donated money to a Kickstarter that will fund a documentary about her life. It has 29 days left to go, and they’re already almost there. I am so excited to receive behind-the-scenes material and a digital copy of the movie.

This makes me so inexplicably happy.
This makes me so inexplicably happy.

Are there any authors whose work has made a significant impact in your life? Let’s talk about it in the comments.


6 thoughts on “Culture Connoisseur: Joan Didion

  1. Will read these essays soon, but I highly recommend Orwell’s personal accounts and journalism. I honestly think he’s an incredibly overrated novelist, but whenever he writes about himself and the world at large, it’s top tier stuff. “Down and Out in Paris in London” and “Homage to Catalonia” are pretty great.

  2. I’m always looking for new things to read, particularly things that will leave me feeling truly better, somehow, as an individual and as a writer. This past year and a half I’ve just been working my way through the classics, the “BBC Book List” classics, in fact. But I feel I need a change, and I think you have convinced me to check out Joan Didion. Believing your description of her work, I’m sure I will not be disappointed. Thanks 🙂

    1. I need to check that list out! Based on your description of what you like to read, I’m sure you’ll like Joan Didion. Happy reading!

  3. I really enjoyed Paulo Coelho’s “The Alchemist”. It’s beautifully written… makes you think about life.
    And there’s also “Doctor Fischer of Geneva” by Graham Greene. Love that one! It shows what people would do for money. It’s crazy…

    1. “The Alchemist” was good! The ending was the best part. I’ll have to try the other book. Thanks for stopping by!

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