The Picture in Her Mind
November 30, 2017 9:10 PM   Subscribe

Didion’s journalism from the Sixties and Seventies seems newly relevant because then (as now) American history had taken a few alarming turns, and everyone wanted to know why and what to do about it. While crossing the nation on book tour she heard the same question from every TV and radio host: “Where are we heading?” Today, the questions remain the same. Why is this happening? And: What can we do to change it? But Didion regarded answers to these questions with skepticism, bordering on contempt. At the heart of grand narratives about who we are and where we are heading she saw self-deception in the face of meaningless disorder. Instead of trying to change the world, Didion was content, as she writes in South and West, “to find out, as usual, what was making the picture in my mind.”, Paul Gleason for The Point
posted by the man of twists and turns (9 comments total) 15 users marked this as a favorite
She's not dead!
posted by ActingTheGoat at 9:38 PM on November 30, 2017 [1 favorite]

I knew very little of Joan Didion, and I'm going to try this article when I have some time, but what I know of her now is entirely based on the impersonations of National Treasure Mallory Ortberg.
posted by numaner at 10:34 PM on November 30, 2017 [2 favorites]

Distrust those particular narratives.
posted by MonkeyToes at 2:19 AM on December 1, 2017

Belief in the heroic potential of the pioneer spirit started to look pathological, like an effort to beat back what Didion later called “some deep apprehension of meaninglessness.”

Given the current political state of my country, this line gave me the cold spooky.
posted by AlSweigart at 9:49 AM on December 1, 2017 [1 favorite]

I need to read more of her and about her.
posted by bongo_x at 9:53 AM on December 1, 2017

Well, it's a nice story, but why should I believe any of it?

Maybe there isn't any conclusion or meaning to Didion's life, and this article is just another example of fable making.
posted by happyroach at 10:00 AM on December 1, 2017

"Joan! Your hair, backwards? Was this by accident, or for fashion?"

"Anna, it was both by accident and for fashion."
posted by praemunire at 11:22 AM on December 1, 2017 [2 favorites]

Mentioned in the above piece, from The New Yorker: The Radicalization of Joan Didion.

"Didion thinks that this is why the press latches on to stories like the [Central Park] Jogger’s. It’s not because those stories tell us who we are. It’s because they don’t. They leave unexamined and untouched the class antagonisms and economic failures that are the underlying causes of socially destructive events. Personal stories feed the American illusion that the system is never the cause of anything. Those stories are always about fortitude, character, loyalty to the group."
posted by dnash at 2:02 PM on December 1, 2017 [2 favorites]

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