Didion

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Author, screenwriter, essayist, journalist. She is the writer’s writer. Joan Didion….the high priestess of literature. I always have one of her books in my bag to read and re-read on the bus or train (I don’t own a smartphone and I eschew social media.)

Here’s an excerpt that I love from the opening pages of Blue Nights:

The French called this time of day “l’heure bleue.” To the English it was “the gloaming.” The very word “gloaming” reverberates, echos – the gloaming, the glimmer, the glitter, the glisten, the glamour – carrying in its consonants the images of houses shuttering, gardens darkening, grass-lined rivers slipping through the shadows.

Didion’s nephew is Griffin Dunne, actor, film-maker and son of Dominick Dunne. For those who haven’t seen the short documentary film he made on his famous aunt, here it is below. It’s sad and beautifully crafted.

Following the sudden death of her husband in 2003 (as they were sitting down to dinner in their Manhattan apartment), Didion published a magnificent memoir with an equally magnificent title: The Year of Magical Thinking. Tragically, her only child, Quintana Roo, aged only 39 and a recent bride, died two years later in 2005. In Blue Nights she pieced together literary snapshots and retrieved memories about her daughter’s life and death.

Didion’s writing is described as unsentimental and scrupulous. Here’s another favorite excerpt from Blue Nights

At the house after her christening at St. Martin of Tours Catholic Church in Brentwood we had watercress sandwiches and champagne and later, for anyone still around at dinner time, fried chicken. The house we were renting belonged to Sara Mankiewicz, Herman Mankiewicz’s widow, who was traveling for six months, and although she had packed away the china she left out her Minton dinner plates, the same pattern as the Minton tiles that line the arcade south of Bethesda Fountain in Central Park. I put them on a buffet table for the fried chicken.

I remember Diana eating a chicken wing off one of them, a fleck of rosemary from the chicken the only blemish on her otherwise immaculate manicure.

Today, Didion is 86 and lives in New York City.

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