Joan Didion, Legendary Writer and Journalist, Dies at 87

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The iconic and generation-defining writer Joan Didion died this week at the age of 87, according to numerous reports.

On Thursday, a publicity executive at Didion’s publisher, Alfred A. Knopf, confirmed that she’d died “at her home in New York due to complications from Parkinson's disease." 

Didion rose to prominence in the 1960s with both her fiction and nonfiction works and has been widely regarded as one of the greatest writers of the 20th century. Some of her most notable early works include Run, River, Slouching Towards Bethlehem, and Play It As It Lays. Her later work — which include her memorable evaluations on grief in both The Year of Magical Thinking and Blue Nights — would garner her honors such as the National Book Award for Nonfiction and make her a finalist for both the National Book Critics Circle Award and the Pulitzer Prize for Biography/Autobiography (both of which for The Year of Magical Thinking).

Her editor, Shelley Wanger, said in a statement that Didion “was a brilliant observer and listener, a wise and subtle teller of truths about our present and future.”

“She was fierce and fearless in her reporting. Her writing is timeless and powerful, and her prose has influenced millions," said Wanger. "She was a close and longtime friend, loved by many, including those of us who worked with her at Knopf. We will mourn her death but celebrate her life, knowing that her work will inspire generations of readers and writers to come.”

While she lived on both the east and west coasts throughout her life, Didion was born in Sacramento and went to college at the University of California, Berkeley. After spending many years at Vogue and becoming an associate features editor, she went on to move back to California and continued to write alongside her husband, fellow writer John Gregory Dunne.

Dunne and Didion weren’t just romantic partners but often collaborated on writing projects. In addition to their work together on the screenplay for Didion’s aforementioned work, Play It As It Lays, the pair also wrote screenplays for The Panic in Needle Park, A Star Is Born, True Confessions, and Up Close & Personal. The couple also shared a daughter, Quintana Roo, whom they adopted in 1967.

While much of Didion’s words can be plucked and read as inspiration, ​​a snippet from her 1975 commencement address at the University of California, Riverside, stands out: “I’m not telling you to make the world better, because I don’t think that progress is necessarily part of the package. I’m just telling you to live in it. Not just to endure it, not just to suffer it, not just to pass through it, but to live in it. To look at it. To try to get the picture. To live recklessly. To take chances. To make your own work and take pride in it. To seize the moment.”

Tags: Groundbreaking Women

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Written By

Rose Low

Rose Low is a writer based in New York, with a background in social media strategy and reporting. She has a Masters from NYU and a love for romantic comedies. See Full Bio

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