A series of revolutionary women: Joan Didion

Ty Deery ’22

Contributing writer

The work of the American writer Joan Didion spans nearly six decades. She began her career at Vogue in 1956 after winning a magazine-sponsored essay competition during her senior year at UC Berkeley. Didion published his first book, Run, River in tribute to her home state of California in 1963 while she was still working for the magazine. In the years that followed, Didion wrote articles for the Saturday Evening Post, published novels, wrote political commentaries, and compiled essay books. His relentless activity made Didion one of the best American literary talents to ever write.

Didion grew up idolizing the work of Ernest Hemmingway. However, she soon became disillusioned with the prototypical image of the male novelist. She said of Hemmingway and others in an interview for The Paris Revue, “Bitter drinkers, bad livers. Wives, wars, big fish, Africa, Paris, no second acts. Didion created a space for the novelist that did not exist when she started writing in the 1950s and 1960s. Her relationship to feminism as a movement is however nuanced, perhaps only because she was ahead. on his time. Didion’s main complaint about second wave feminism was the lack of intersectionality in the movement. While Didion has undoubtedly taken for granted some of the doors that have been opened to her by the feminist movement, she has opened many more in her career.

Book of essays by Didion Collapse towards Bethlehem (1968) was hailed by The New York Times Book Review as “the best magazine articles published by anyone in this country in recent years.” Now that Truman Capote has stated that such work can attain the stature of “art”, it may be possible that this collection is recognized as it should be: not as a better or a worse example of this. what some call “simple journalism”, but as a rich exhibition of some of the best prose written today in this country. ” Collapse towards Bethlehem details San Francisco at the height of the counter-culture movement. The crumbling of the communal society that had temporarily governed La Cité Dorée in the late 1960s left the children of the hippie movement clinging to the threads. Didion’s signature style of inhabiting a space between an impartial journalist and an empathetic storyteller is clearly defined in Slumped towards Bethlehem. The societal decay responsible for the necessary creation of a counterculture movement is painted with the cruel brushstrokes of a realist. However, the plight of children left behind by the fleeting passage of the movement is treated with tender and compassionate compassion.

Joan Didion is complex. Her whole person is completely vulnerable and visible in every piece she writes. She shamelessly claimed that the novel belonged to women as much as to men. She made no attempt to make her work more masculine or to hide her voice. Didion wrote heartbreaking material on motherhood and her daughter’s death and in doing so exposed a side of femininity that is rarely discussed in popular culture. Didion’s lifelong work has been an exercise in breaking down gender stereotypes about what women can and should write.


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Thelma J. Longworth