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.”
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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