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Didion, Joan(dĭd`ēŏn), 1934–, American writer, b. Sacramento, Calif., grad. Univ. of California, Berkeley, 1956. Her works often explore the despair of contemporary American life, a condition she views as produced by the disintegration of morality and values. She is known for a cool and almost brittle style that emphasizes the concrete. Her novels include Run River (1963), A Book of Common Prayer (1977), Salvador (1983), Democracy (1984), and The Last Thing He Wanted (1996). Didion also has written screenplays (with her late husband John Gregory Dunne) as well as journalistic and critical pieces for such periodicals as the New Yorker and New York Review of Books. Among her books of essays the two most important are Slouching toward Bethlehem (1968) and The White Album (1979), both groundbreaking analyses of contemporary life and culture that combine the personal with the topical. Later essay collections include After Henry (1992) and Political Fictions (2001). Other works include Where I Was From (2003), part memoir, part disenchanted revisionist portrait of California, and the memoirs The Year of Magical Thinking (2005), an account of the grief-filled year that followed her husband's sudden death, and Blue Nights (2011), the anguished story of her grown daughter's death.
See studies by K. U. Henderson (1981), E. G. Friedman, ed. (1984), M. R. Winchell (rev. ed. 1989), and S. Felton, ed. (1994); documentary dir. by G. Dunne, her nephew (2017).