Sacramento Girl: Joan Didion Turns 80

On the heels of Joan Didion’s nephew, Griffin Dunne, raising well over the amount of his Kickstarter goal of $80,000 to make a documentary about her, Didion has just turned 80 years old. Originally from Sacramento, where the only thing more exciting than going to the mall is going to Rick’s Dessert Diner, Didion represents a unique type of author: someone humble in spite of being very much “the voice of a generation.”

70s chic
70s chic
Whether her modesty has to do with her salt of the earth roots or the fact that she’s had to deal with so much pain in her lifetime (what with the loss of both her husband and her daughter, as discussed in The Year of Magical Thinking), Didion has always remained soft-spoken when it comes to her talents. Because she writes to find out about herself–her own innermost fears and wants–Didion is able to connect with her readers on an innate, intuitive level.
Didion in her later years
Didion in her later years
What has always made Didion so relatable and accessible as an author–apart from her seminal essay, “Goodbye to All That”–is that she writes in a way that people from all walks of life can identify with. Even the morose, existential nature of her most influential novel, Play It As It Lays, features character ruminations like, “I mean maybe I was holding all the aces, but what was the game?” that appeal to any reader who has ever experienced pain or tragedy.
Advert for Play It As It Lays
Advert for Play It As It Lays
As Didion enters her eighth decade, the effect she’s had on literature and the world is clearly indelible, and only seems to increase over time. But it’s important to remember that her origins from a town most famous for a Manson member trying to assassinate Gerald Ford is a large part of her ability to draw in many different kinds of readers. Had she been from Los Angeles or New York, her cachet would not be the same, for she would not be nearly as good-naturedly urbane.

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