Monday, January 24

Five works that Joan Didion put in the freezer with his Coca-Colas


Joan Didion had many lives, and luckily each and every one of them left them in writing. From a nomadic childhood that consisted of following a father enlisted in the Air Force, to his development as a chronicler, war reporter or fashion editor.

She was also known for her talents as a hostess, which she displayed with the most famous personalities of Los Angeles, filmmakers, writers and rock stars, whom she invited to copious meals. Instead, she practically fed on a handful of almonds and liters of Coca-Cola. He returned from dropping off his daughter Quintana at school, opened a can and went to work.

This she later confessed, after two long duels – one for her husband, who died on Christmas Eve 2003, and another for her daughter, in 2005 – and once she felt ready to talk about herself again outside of literature. . He also said that, along with the arsenal of Coca-Cola that he always had in the refrigerator, the manuscripts he was working on would rest seasonally. If she was uninspired, she would literally freeze her ideas: she would wrap the sheets of paper in a bag and put them in the refrigerator.

This is how she managed to finish some of her best books, which today remain the legacy of an indispensable writer. He was an exponent of the ‘new journalism’ in the United States, characterized by his aesthetics, his painstaking research and the personal involvement of the reporter. Didion managed to stand out in the latter like none of his colleagues in the movement.

Life changes fast. Change in an instant. One day you sit down to dinner and the life you knew is gone.

Joan Didion

Since his debut as an essayist, with Crawl into bethlehem In 1968, he began creating social images in a very confessional style. A feat that culminated in 2005 with his best book, The year of magical thinking. She was also a film scriptwriter, interviewer, opinion writer, and political chronicler. These are just five essays and novels –available in Spanish– to get closer to Joan Didion, who died at the age of 87 and to whom no list does justice.

Those who dream the American dream (2003)

It is the best option to approach the writing of the journalist Didion. Those who dream the American dream is an anthology carried out especially for Penguin Spain by the legendary editor Claudio López Lamadrid. Thanks to this volume you can read original pieces of Crawl into bethlehem, The white album, After Henry, Salvador and Miami, that are not yet available in full in Spanish.

Includes reporting on the murder of a rich man by his wife, the former Orange County beauty queen; a critique of the film industry after the fall of the big studios; stories with John Wayne; or a dissection of the Haigh-Ashbury hippie commune, which he defined as “the desperate attempt, by a handful of pathetically deprived boys, to create a community in the midst of a social void.”

As the game comes (1970)

Didion gave himself more to the essay than to the fiction, but even so his five decades of work gave birth to several novels. As the game comes was the second, which he published after his debut with the river in the night (1963). This did not bring her much success but it did strengthen her relationship with her later husband, John Gregory Dunne.

On the other hand, with the second book it was introduced among the 100 best novels of the last 80 years of the magazine Time. In it, Didion recounts the life of women in Hollywood, which she attended in the second person thanks to her work and her friendships. Mariah, a young actress, is weighed by the shadow of her husband, a well-known director, in a similar way to Didion’s shadow. In the case of the novel, in addition, society prevents Mariah from deciding on her career, her motherhood or her mental health. A modern classic of American letters.

South and west (2017)

In the summer of 1970, Didion and Dunne embarked on a roadtrip by Mississippi, Alabama and Louisana, commissioned by Life magazine. The writer was able to interview several local personalities and ask them about issues of race, class, and heritage. The result of those scribbles taken in a notebook is the southern part, a mosaic of voices that gave an account of a country that was drowning in its own past.

The West refers to the California of 1976, the result of some notes that began as a commission from Rolling stone to cover the trial against Patty Hearst and who never wrote. They are hastily written sentences, showing Didion’s talent for capturing the image, mood and politics of a particular moment.

The year of magical thinking (2005)

Magical thinking, as explained in this article, is a way of reasoning that attributes an effect to a fact without the relationship between the two having a scientifically verifiable basis. An example would be the person who does not wear hats because one day something bad happened to them while wearing one. This is the title of Joan Didion’s most perfect and painful novel, written after the sudden death of her husband in 2005 from a heart attack.

Didion’s magical thinking was to refuse to drop Dunne’s shoes because if she did, he wouldn’t come back. Her insufferable duel has ended up as a masterpiece of the essay, written in 88 days without a break because facing the machine was the only thing that kept her alive. With it, it won the National Book Award in the category of non-fiction and was adapted for Broadway in 2007.

Blue nights (2011)

“This book is titled Blue nights because at the time when I began to write it, I surprised my mind turning more and more towards illness, towards the death of promises, the shortening of days, the inevitability of fading, the death of light “, writes Joan Didion .

Two summers after the death of her husband, her only daughter, Quintana Roo, passed away at the age of 39. It was in 2005, when I had just finished The year of magical thinking. “He faced the death of his daughter in the same way as in Year faces that of the husband. They make up a series, “explained his editor in Spain, López Lamadrid. This was the last thrust that life gave him, in which he stopped eating and writing, and from which he never recovered.



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