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Joan Didion Return to the Timeline
Joan Didion
Author Joan Didion sitting inside a white Stingray car in Hollywood, November 1970.

Julian Wasser/Time Life Pictures/Getty Images
Joan Didion, (1934-...), is an American essayist and novelist. She was born on Dec. 5, 1934, in Sacramento, California, and often has used California's culture and geography and the lives of its residents as topics and symbols. Didion writes in a spare and intense style that conveys a lack of roots and a sense of social disintegration. Her style is also characterized by a combination of social analysis and personal confession.

In the title essay of her collection SLOUCHING TOWARDS BETHLEHEM (1968), Didion examines the drug culture of the mid-1960s in San Francisco. Her collection THE WHITE ALBUM (1979) similarly explores such California phenomena as freeways and exotic religious groups. The nonfiction works AFTER HENRY (1992) and WHERE I WAS FROM (2003) also deal primarily with California subjects. Her nonfiction book MIAMI (1987) analyzes the impact of Cuban exiles on the city of Miami. Didion concentrated on political subjects in such nonfiction books as SALVADOR (1983), based on a trip to El Salvador, and POLITICAL FICTIONS (2001), essays that examine American politics from 1988 to 2000. These seven books were collected in WE TELL OURSELVES STORIES IN ORDER TO LIVE (2006). Didion's novels include RUN RIVER (1963), PLAY IT AS IT LAYS (1970), A BOOK OF COMMON PRAYER (1977), DEMOCRACY (1984), and THE LAST THING HE WANTED (1996). Didion also wrote several screenplays with her husband, author John Gregory Dunne. THE YEAR OF MAGICAL THINKING (2005) is a memoir of Didion's life during the year following Dunne's death at the end of 2003.

Arthur M. Saltzman, Ph.D., Professor of English, Missouri Southern State College.

From THE WORLD BOOK ENCYCLOPEDIA © 2007 World Book, Inc. By permission of the publisher. Visit World Book Encyclopedia for more information on Joan Didion and related subjects.

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