Christopher Lydon of the excellent Radio Open Source speaks to Joan Didion, one of the greatest non-fiction writers and prose stylists of the past half century, about her latest book Blue Nights. The book is a follow-up to her acclaimed The Year of Magical Thinking; both are meditations on death inspired by the death of her husband, the author John Gregory Dunne, closely followed by the death of her adopted daughter Quintana.
Joan Didion is reading from her second smashing meditation on death, Blue Nights. And I’m her interlocutor and foil again onstage in Cambridge. With a woman of the considered written word, not the spontaneous spoken word, it’s a tricky job. And it didn’t solve for me the puzzle of Didion’s power. But how could I not share it, or you not respond?
Joan Didion’s a writers’ writer gone suddenly, in her seventies, rock star and phenomenon, meeting a hungry market for introspections on death both sudden, as in the case of her husband John Gregory Dunne and Didion’s 2005 best-seller, The Year of Magical Thinking; or slow and almost unfathomable death, which came to Didion’s adopted daughter Quintana Roo, at 39, and prompted Blue Nights. Six hundred readers bought books and tickets to hear Didion and pack the First Church in Harvard Square last night.
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