Joan Didion

PARIS: Watch Choate get Joan Didion …

Joan Didion (1934-2021), journalist and author, considered one of the pioneers of New Journalism, along with such figures as Tom Wolfe and Hunter S. Thompson. Didion’s career began in the 1950s when she won an essay contest sponsored by Vogue.

Her writing in the 1960s and ’70s focused on the counterculture, Hollywood lifestyle, and Californian culture and history. In the 1980s and ’90s, her writing concentrated on the subtext of political and social rhetoric. In1991, she wrote the earliest mainstream media article to suggest the Central Park Five, previously discussed, were innocent.

She won the 2005 National Book Award for her memoir about the year following the death of her husband, The Year of Magical Thinking. In premiered as a Broadway play in 2007. In 2013, she was awarded the National Humanities Medal by President Barack Obama.

At this time, Didion had just won the St Louis Literary Prize in 2002, and had recently released her 2001 book of essays, Political Fictions. Her essays on the history and culture of California, Where I Was From, was due to be published in September 2003.

Joan Didion was the first woman to give the commencement address at the University of California in 1975, which is presumably why Paris thinks of her. Her address began with a few charming anecdotes about her own youth, before she launched into a blistering attack on her generation in the 1960s, and its refusal to face up to reality.

A quote from the speech that I think Paris would have warmed to:

“Planting a tree can be a useful and pleasant thing to do. Planting a tree is not a way of life. Planting a tree as a philosophical mode is just not good enough.”

There is no record of her giving a speech at Choate at any time, so it seems as if they didn’t get her after all.

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