Writer Joan Didion Dead At 87


Groundbreaking journalist and writer Joan Didion, the author of acclaimed works including Play It As It Lays and The White Album, died Thursday at age 87. 

Key Facts

Didion died from Parkinson’s disease in her home in Manhattan, her publishing house Knopf confirmed to multiple news outlets

Didion was a pioneer of New Journalism, a style that blended literary writing and reporting that became popular in magazines and books in the 1960s and 1970s.

“Didion was one of the country’s most trenchant writers and astute observers. Her best-selling works of fiction, commentary, and memoir have received numerous honors and are considered modern classics,” Penguin Random House, which owns Knopf, said in a statement.

Her works include essay collection Slouching Towards Bethlehem, the memoir The Year of Magical Thinking, and the screenplays for the films Panic In Needle Park and the Barbara Streisand A Star Is Born.

Key Background

Didion was born in California and started her career writing for Vogue and The National Review. She published her first novel Run River in 1963. Her essay collections were often comprised of works previously published in magazines like Life and Esquire and centered on the culture and history of California, and Didion’s own experiences. She had a tendency to cover chaos, writing about her own emotions and of the turmoil that defined the 1960s and 1970s. Her 2005 book The Year Of Magical Thinking recounts the death of her husband, John Gregory Dunne, and won a National Book Award that year. Their daughter, Quintana Roo, died in 2005 at age 39 from pancreatitis after years of health struggles. In 2011, former President Obama awarded her the National Humanities Medal, calling her “one of our sharpest and most respected observers of American politics and culture.” She wrote a total of 19 books, her last being the 2011 memoir Blue Lights, in which she reflected on her daughter’s death.


Didion’s passing comes days after the death of an old friend, the writer Eve Babitz, who came to fame in the same era with a similar focus on Los Angeles.

Further Reading

Joan Didion, ‘New Journalist’ Who Explored Culture And Chaos, Dies At 87 (The New York Times)

Joan Didion, peerless prose stylist, dies at 87 (The Boston Globe)

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