East Coastians would likely balk at the term “California literature” as being an oxymoron. And yet, that’s precisely what Joan Didion carved out for herself as a genre. Yes, there were others who had written about California before her—John Steinbeck and Nathanael West come to mind (even Raymond Chandler, for the less hoity-toity)—and all just as negatively through the guise of “poetic darkness.” But none … Continue reading Is It the End or the Beginning of California Literature Now?
The excitement surrounding Joan Didion’s release of a “new” book called Let Me Tell You What I Mean needn’t be mitigated by the fact that it is a collection of older essays (previously unreleased, therefore everything old is new again), gathered from 1968 to 2000. For Didion is perhaps at her most signaturely eviscerating during this period, and one wonders if a release of truly … Continue reading Joan Didion Knows Where to Cut: Plucking Flowers With “Pretty Nancy”
In an alternate universe, perhaps Joan Didion herself might have become some version of Lily Knight, the dissatisfied, cuckolding Sacramento girl who couldn’t seem to fathom how to be a good wife to the man who loved her. Without her writing talent as a ticket out of town, Didion could have easily become just another Golden State tragedy, damned to a lifetime of complacence and … Continue reading The Abandonment of California by Joan Didion: A Comparative Glance at Run River and Where I Was From