Joan Didion, the enigmatic woman | Culture


Joan Didion said that when she was a teenager, she typed pages of Hemingway’s novels to understand the mystery of the prose in which they were written. It was this obsessive task and the diary that his mother gave him to vent his complaints that undoubtedly triggered the desire to tell what he lived. It is Didion (how to write in the past about who is so present), above any consideration, a look, a style. His narration, although it is at the service of the facts, appears impregnated by a literary, austere and effective prose, something always enigmatic.

This preeminence of her character in any matter she addressed inscribes her in the new journalism movement, but her condition as a woman added interests and colors to her writings that other of her colleagues missed. Young Didion was a woman of her time in a strict sense, someone who knew how to capture with unusual insight the different countercultural waves that shook American culture in the 1960s and 1970s. a singular reporter: that of the woman who knows how to observe, select with a good eye the crucial testimonies and sneak into delicate territories in a bold way, without fear. This lack of fear is given by a strangeness to the environments it describes.

Despite her extremely slim complexion, which could give her an image of extreme vulnerability, there was something hypnotic about her presence that made her influential for magazine editors and a character. cool in the eyes of the fashion world. Together with her husband, the writer John Gregory Dunne, she cultivated the Hollywood world, wrote for the cinema and did not miss the opportunity to be part of the Californian cultural universe. That was their territory for many years, the scene of a wild, beautiful and at the same time endangered world, crossed in its formidable extension by highways that seem to lead nowhere.

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There is in all his prose a sense of inevitability in the face of disaster. Perhaps the most relevant expression of these omens is the book that made it known in Spain, The year of magical thinking, which in our mania of cataloging everything we have classified as mourning literature, but which for me constitutes its great report: a deep, sparse, harsh, brutal study of a woman who, having anchored in the ground, is suspended in the ground that most isolates us from other human beings, that of pain without consolation.

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Oblivious to sentimentality, prone to what could be perceived as a certain coldness in her eyes, Joan Didion seemed to train throughout her life to write a tremendous self-portrait through the story of a tragic and inconsolable setback; In her last years, the chronicler becomes an entomologist of herself, as she did with the Californian hippies, the musical universes, drugs, the madness. He had the fortitude to keep working until the last minute. Her life and her craft cannot be celebrated differently, because she was in a sense her best work of art.


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George Holan

George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.

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