The works of Joan Didion

Wednesday 25 October, 2017

Joan Didion: The Center Will Not Hold is an intimate look at one of America’s most influential writers.

Joan Didion has published over 15 books, fiction and nonfiction, as well as multiple screenplays and has been famously noted for creating genres and styles of writing ahead of her time. Directed by Didion's nephew, Griffin Dunne, Joan Didion: The Center Will Not Hold explores the personal and professional life of America’s literary matriarch.

Ahead of the film's run at Bertha DocHouse (screening daily from Friday 27th Oct), Danielle Wood surveys Didion's most celebrated works.

Play It as It Lays (1970)

TIME Magazine included Play It as It Lays in their TIME 100 Best English-Language Novels from 1923 – 2005. From the good, the bad and the evil of Hollywood to the desert sands of Las Vegas, Didion dissects life in the late 1960’s. The prose three decades later is still found to be as enthralling as when she first captured the temperament of an entire generation. Play It as It Lays has stood the test of time as a powerful piece of feminist literature; Didion so deeply indulged us in the character of Maria that whether you lust or loathe the lead you are marked by the brilliance of the writer's ability to leave her in you.

The White Album (1979)

Derived from essays previously published in Life and Esquire, The White Album is an artefact of Joan’s journalistic measure. Joan writes with gusto about the Black Panther Party press conference, the Manson Family, the story of John Paul Getty’s museum and the confliction and confusion of that time in America. The White Album exposes the realities of the latter stories that no others could with her clarity and tough-mindedness.

Political Fictions (2001)

In Political Fictions, Joan Didion records the political process that Americans contribute to year in, year out. In true Didion form she speaks of the uncomfortable truth about the way America votes, the candidates they vote for and the people who tell them to vote. For those less politically minded or affiliated you will still gain a breakdown of the steps undertaken by a nation to create a democracy. With America’s continual political unease, Political Fictions can be read as a means to comprehend the dictated showmanship.

The Year of Magical Thinking (2015)

The Year of Magical Thinking was written as a mechanism to cope with and discuss Didion's grief for her husband and daughter. Written in reporter form, it offers an honest and passionate take on a universal experience. Throughout The Year of Magical Thinking, Didion tries to make sense of events while writing about her first year as a widow. Albeit a darker book to hunker down with, it is, like all of Didion's work, a cathartic experience to read her relativity to a real life event.

South and West: From a Notebook (2017)

From Didion’s never before seen notebooks, South and West is a mirage of overheard dialogues, interviews, drafted essays and articles that she wrote while on a road trip through Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama with her husband in June 1970. From a different notebook “California Notes”, Didion writes for a Rolling Stone assignment on the Patty Hearst trial, 1976. Combined, the two present a sketchbook of memories, impressions and thoughts on Didion's time spent revisiting the south and her life on the west coast. Joan Didion’s observations and profiles are some of the best ever documented of the human race.

Words by Danielle Wood