Back In memoriam: Joan Didion, 1934–2021
Joan Didion speaking at the College of Marin, Kentfield, California, in February, 1977. (Janet Fries/Getty Images)

Joan Didion died at her home in New York City on December 23, 2021, at the age of 87. The author of five novels and twelve works of nonfiction, she is represented in the Library of America series by the collections Joan Didion: The 1960s & 70s and Joan Didion: The 1980s & 90s.

To commemorate Didion’s passing, we present tributes to her work from several contemporary writers, followed by lists of Didion-related resources on and elsewhere.


Joan Didion:
The 1960s & 70s

Kate Bolick
Joan Didion left us so much to learn from, across so many forms. I keep returning to her cultural criticism. Her 1991 essay “New York: Sentimental Journeys,” about the Central Park jogger case, is a master class in analyzing and describing an event using multiple perspectives simultaneously—novelist, beat reporter, gum-shoe detective, literary critic, historian—unrivaled even among her fellow New Journalists. If I’d had the chance to meet her, it’s that essay I would have wanted to ask her about. So in 2017, when Bob Silvers died, I was intrigued to see her mention it in her memorial of him: Silvers “knew what the piece had to be—he knew before I did—and he pushed me until I got it there,” she wrote. “He knew exactly how dangerous the subject was, and his reaction to this danger was to make it more dangerous. . . . Regardless of whatever negative reaction it might elicit in the city at that moment.” I confess to having felt a wave of selfish relief: Even the great Didion needed editorial guidance! But this curdled, with her death, into something more foreboding. Publishing and media have devolved to such a degree that even if someone starting out has the brilliance and tenacity to attempt to follow in Didion’s footsteps, will there be enough outlets, or editors, to allow it?

Steph Cha
There are writers who cast big shadows, and then there’s Joan Didion, who wrote so beautifully and definitively about so many places/subjects/states of mind that I can’t read or write or even think very long without activating the part of my brain that holds onto her work. Slouching Toward Bethlehem and The White Album are two of my favorite essay collections of all time, and Play It As It Lays is one of my favorite novels. She’s staked out an enormous amount of geographical and emotional territory in my internal map of the world.

Then, almost separately, there’s her prose style, the incisive clarity of her writing. I first read her in my mid-20s, when I was coming into my own as a writer, and I’ve been emulating her ever since—not even her voice (I would never try for that), but her ability to write with precision and elegance in a way that made her work supremely readable, rather than dense with the brambles of her intellect. I would be a different writer if I’d never read Didion.

Laila Lalami
I came to Joan Didion’s work in my late twenties, when I was trying to get acquainted with the state that had recently become my home. I still remember the awe I felt when I read Slouching Towards Bethlehem. Here was a writer who could look at other people’s lives as well as her own with the same unsparing eye, the same attention for singular detail. Over the years I read and reread her essays and novels, studied her syntactic style, marveled at her deployment of the telling quote, and admired the way she moved so fluidly between fiction and nonfiction. No one captured the danger of myths or the power of place quite like she did.

Joan Didion:
The 1980s & 90s

David L. Ulin (editor of LOA’s Didion edition)
Joan Didion made me want to be an essayist. There’s no more accurate or fitting tribute I can offer in her memory. But in working on Library of America’s Didion edition, I became aware, in a way I hadn’t quite before, of the power and significance of her fiction, and how it both informed and was informed by her nonfiction, the way her body of work ebbed and flowed as an integrated whole. From California to Central America, from cultural and political narratives to personal ones. At the center of it all was that voice, that eye, that spectacular and nuanced distance, assessing and recording the surfaces as a necessary excavation of everything that lies beneath.

Joan Didion in her New York City apartment in 2005. (Star Tribune via Getty Images)


Joan Didion: The Art of Storytelling
May 19, 2021

When Joan Didion met Jean Stafford
April 22, 2021

Story of the Week: Joan Didion, “L.A. Noir”
April 9, 2021

David L. Ulin on the early Joan Didion: Dread, disruption, and “a writer responding to her moment”
December 4, 2019

Story of the Week: Joan Didion, “Quiet Days in Malibu”
November 15, 2019

The New York Review of Books has made available a complete archive of Didion’s writing for that publication, and The New Yorker offers testimonials from Hilton Als, Emma Cline, and Zadie Smith. Bookforum remembers Didion with Gary Indiana on her 2011 memoir Blue Nights and Sarah Nicole Prickett on South and West: From a Notebook (2017), which collects Didion’s travel diaries from the 1970s.

Library of America

A champion of America’s great writers and timeless works, Library of America guides readers in finding and exploring the exceptional writing that reflects the nation’s history and culture.

Learn More

From poetry, novels, and memoirs to journalism, crime writing, and science fiction, the more than 300 volumes published by Library of America are widely recognized as America’s literary canon.

Benefits of Using Safe Crypto Casinos. One of the most captivating reasons people drift towards Australian casinos online-casino-au com is the promise of anonymity. Safe platforms guarantee that your identity remains a secret. Quick Payouts and Minimal Fees. No one likes waiting, especially for winnings. Safe crypto casinos ensure that payouts are swift and the fees minimal, if not non-existent.

Browse our books Subscribe

With contributions from donors, Library of America preserves and celebrates a vital part of our cultural heritage for generations to come.

Ozwin Casino offers an exciting array of top-notch slots that cater to every player's preferences. From classic fruit machines to cutting-edge video slots, Ozwin Casino Real Money collection has it all. With stunning graphics, immersive themes, and seamless gameplay, these slots deliver an unparalleled gaming experience. Some popular titles include Mega Moolah, Gonzo's Quest, and Starburst, known for their massive jackpots and thrilling bonus features. Ozwin Casino's slots are not just about luck; they offer hours of entertainment and the chance to win big, making it a must-visit for slot enthusiasts.

Support our mission