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Portland, Oregon

Joan Didion

Joan Didion shares from Political Fictions, which focuses on her experience observing and participating in the American political process.

In this episode we feature the iconic writer of nonfiction, Joan Didion, from a special event in 2001. She briefly reads from her then new book Political Fictions, and then talks with David Sarasohn from The Oregonian.

Didion’s career began in 1956 when she began writing for Vogue. Since then, she wrote more than a dozen books of essays and nonfiction, including the 2005 national bestseller The Year of Magical Thinking, which became a Broadway production. Didion contributed work to virtually major magazine and newspaper in the country, and wrote several screenplays with her late husband John Gregory Dunne.

Her writing about American politics began in earnest in 1988 when she got an assignment from The New York Review of Books to cover the presidential election. This reporting was collected, along with other articles and essays, into the book Political Fictions, which was published in 2001 and was the reason for this event in Portland. The reading and conversation in this episode is fascinating because as she says “history is context.” Didion connects her observations in 1988 about the professional political class to the contested political election of 2000, which had occurred just a year earlier. And her insights and thoughts about the dangerous implication for how our American political life was evolving feel eerily prescient for our current situation.

Didion died on Thursday, December 23, 2021 at the age of 87.

“I have a strong sense that we better start noticing the rest of the world.”

Joan Didion was one of America’s most respected writers, her work constituting some of the greatest portraits of modern-day American culture. Over the four decades of her career, she produced widely-acclaimed journalistic essays, personal essays, novels, non-fiction, memoir and screenplays. Her memoir The Year of Magical Thinking won the National Book Award in 2005.

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