Writers on a New England Stage: Joan Didion

Jul 7, 2012

Produced with Emma Ruddock

Joan Didion, one of America’s most admired writers, recorded live at the music hall in Portsmouth. 

Slouching Towards Bethlehem, her 1968 collection of non-fiction established Didion as a brilliant observer and a powerful voice in the genre that would become  “new journalism.” 

Didion and husband John Gregory Dunne were a shining example of a successful literary couple. Whether co-writing Hollywood screenplays or editing each other’s work, they were nearly inseperable for forty years. Didion has published five novels, a play, and several collections of essays, including The White AlbumPolitical Fictions and other chronicles of moral and political disintegration. Her life exuded accomplishment and privilege until late 2005, when she was broad-sided by loss.

After visiting their daughter Quintana, who lay in an induced coma.  Dunne, her collaborator and confidante, died of a massive coronary while sitting at the dinner table in their New York apartment. The Year of Magical Thinking was a narrative response to his death and to the cascading series of illnesses of her daughter. It was her best-selling book ever.

Juat after it was published, her 39-year-old daughter died of acute pneumonia. Didion’s most recent book, Blue Nights, is an intensely personal memoir of Quintana’s life, mental illness, and death