“To assign unanswered letters their proper weight, to free us from the expectations of others, to give us back to ourselves--there lies the great, the singular power of self-respect.
If one is to take interest in writing about America, one takes interest in Joan Didion.
Thompson and Tom Wolfe, chronicling the times and offering up cultural critiques and observations about the Manson murders, the civil rights movement, and Vietnam.
She was able to mix the personal and the political without veering into TMI territory.
In 1970 Lore Segal at The New York Times wrote, “A new novel by Joan Didion is something of an event.” Four decades later, the novels might not be new, but reading them still feels like an event.
If, as Cheryl Strayed proclaimed a few months back, “Essayists who happen to be women are having a banner year,” then those essayists owe a lot to Joan Didion.One of Didion’s most quoted lines is, “We tell ourselves stories in order to live.” If you’re in need of a little reminder about why you write and what in the world you’re thinking trying to become an essayist or a poet, reading her work might just rekindle your passion.“I write entirely to find out what I'm thinking, what I'm looking at, what I see and what it means.She dealt with that loss by doing what she does best — she wrote about it. Nor do they sing there, or write, or argue, or see the tidal bore on the Amazon, or touch their children.“I know why we try to keep the dead alive: we try to keep them alive in order to keep them with us. And that's what there is to do and get it while you can and good luck at it.”So in honor of Joan Didion, live recklessly and get it while you can.In her years of writing, she has made herself an exemplary piece of the American discussion in every topic, from children on drugs to the question of morality in life and politics.For our representative piece, she focuses “On Self-Respect,” as the essay title would imply.No matter what has happened in her life, Didion has never sought pity in her writing. It’ll help.“I'm not telling you to make the world better, because I don't think that progress is necessarily part of the package. Not just to endure it, not just to suffer it, not just to pass through it, but to live in it. She’s tiny but mighty, she’s tough, resilient, and strong. Within this essay, and in all of her work, the thing that holds the center is Didion herself.As Evan Carton puts it in his analysis of , “Didion is not ‘at the center’ because she is…