Joan Didion, the essayist who helped usher in the ‘new journalism’, has died at 87

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Joan Didion, the American writer whose incisive observations of counterculture in the 1960s and 1970s established her as a star of the literary world, died Thursday of Parkinson’s disease in her Manhattan home, The New York Times confirmed. She was 87 years old.

A source of inspiration for several generations of writers, especially women, Didion has also been adopted by the fashion world, playing in campaigns for Gap in 1989 and Céline in 2015. In her later years, she became a leading thinker on the subject of bereavement, writing two books meditating on the loss of her husband and daughter.

Born in Sacramento, California on December 5, 1934, Didion was a pioneer in the era of new journalism, a literary style marked by romantic and immersive storytelling, alongside his contemporaries Truman Capote, Hunter S. Thompson and Gay Talese. She has become known for her vivid social and political commentary, penetrating through the noise of anti-establishment sentiments, the golden nature of Hollywood life, and the insidious alliance between the political and media classes with an unperturbed balance.

His home state of California was also a frequent, albeit at times somber, muse, as groundbreaking works like Some Dreamers of the Golden Dream and La Santa Ana. In 1978, she told the Paris review

Well I grew up in a dangerous landscape. I think people are more affected than they think by the landscapes and the weather. Sacramento was a very extreme place. … These extremes affect the way you treat the world. It turns out that if you are a writer, extremes appear. They don’t if you’re selling insurance.

After graduating in English from the University of California at Berkeley in 1956, Didion won an essay competition which landed him a job at Vogue magazine. She went on to publish highly acclaimed non-fiction collections including Collapse towards Bethlehem and The white album, aas well as novels like Running the river, Play as it turns out, and The democracy. She has adapted several screenplays, often co-writing with husband John Gregory Dunne, such as the 1976 iteration of A star is born.

After the death of Dunne in 2003 and their daughter, Quintana Roo Dunne Michael, in 2005, grief became a common theme for Didion. The year of magical thinking and Blue nights both contemplate their loss; the former won the National Book Award for Nonfiction in 2005.

Struggling with her point of view on her profession, she said in 1976

I knew I was not a lawful resident in any idea world. I knew I couldn’t think. All I knew then was what I couldn’t do. All I knew then was what I wasn’t, and it took me a few years to find out what I was.

Who was a writer.

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