Nowadays, in our world of bloggers and YouTube, when every citizen is a journalist and our most respected publications are replete with first-person narrative, it is difficult to remember a time when journalistic objectivity meant removing all traces of the self who is reporting. More than perhaps anyone else, Joan Didion made us see the value of inserting oneself into the story you are telling, showing us that it is often the subjective experience of the writer that is the true story.
Ms. Didion was an important voice in the loose ’60s movement known as New Journalism, and while her peers, notably Tom Wolfe and Norman Mailer, focused on dialogue and developing narrative, she pioneered the use of the first-person account, holding up her own experience as a mirror for America’s fragmenting cultural values.
A California native, Ms. Didion entered the New York media world when she won an essay contest during her senior year at Berkeley that gained her a position at Vogue. In her long career, she has contributed countless essays to Vogue, Esquire, The New York Times and The Saturday Evening Post, among many other publications. She famously fell in and out of love with New York in her 20s, as detailed in her acclaimed essay “Goodbye to All That.”
She made New York her permanent home later in life, and has since written a series of stunning, heart-wrenching memoirs concerning the deaths of her husband and daughter, including The Year of Magical Thinking and Blue Nights. Now 78, Ms. Didion remains a New York sensation, a powerful force in literary journalism, and a profound influence on every writer who has ever worked at a New York magazine.