In Memory of Joan Didion

We remember Joan Didion, who passed away this week at age 87.

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We were saddened to learn of the death this week of Joan Didion, a writer whose crisp, direct prose captured the American mood with wry dispassion. In the late 1960s, she and her husband, John Gregory Dunne, wrote a regular column for The Saturday Evening Post, “Points West,” where they submitted accounts of life in California. Her most well-known and influential essay, “Slouching Towards Bethlehem,” first appeared in the pages of the Post on September 23, 1967; it later became part of the essay collection of the same name. Other essays for the Post included “”John Wayne: A Love Song,” “California Dreaming,” and “Marrying Absurd.”

Joan Didion (Photo by David Shankbone via the the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license)

Didion also penned “The Big Rock Candy Figgy Pudding Pitfall,” a Christmas-themed essay that was originally published in The Saturday Evening Post on December 3, 1966, and also appeared in our November/December 2018 issue. In it, Didion sets out to be the kind of woman who makes 20 hard candy topiary trees and homemade figgy puddings. She wrote, “I recognized clearly that my plans for the Christmas season — making a few deadlines — were stale and unprofitable. Had my great-great-grandmother come west in a covered wagon and strung cranberries on scrub oaks so that I might sit by myself in a room typing with one finger and ordering Italian twinkle lights by mail from Hammacher Schlemmer?”

It’s been reported that The Saturday Evening Post‘s lavish payments enabled Didion and Dunne to rent a shabby mansion, drive a yellow Stingray, and, most critically, write. Joan Didion made an incalculable contribution to American letters, and we’re glad that, however briefly, we got to be a part of it.

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  1. It’s good The New Yorker published their appreciation (per link) last February when Ms. Didion was still around to read it. The set of circumstances of what was going on with both the hippie scene and the Post in ’67 came together to allow for her influential essay ‘Slouching Towards Bethlehem’ which I just read here in full for the first time.

    She was very unique indeed. ‘The Big Rock Candy Figgy Pudding Pitfall’ was just read last night. I was up too late but put my time to good use. Hopefully she was a subscriber to the Post, and enjoyed seeing these two features republished in 2017 and ’18.


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