counter create hit The Last Love Song: A Biography of Joan Didion - Download Free eBook
Ads Banner
Hot Best Seller

The Last Love Song: A Biography of Joan Didion

Availability: Ready to download

In New York Times bestselling The Last Love Song, Tracy Daugherty, the critically acclaimed author of Hiding Man (a New Yorker and New York Times Notable book) and Just One Catch, delves deep into the life of distinguished American author and journalist Joan Didion in this, the first printed biography published about her life. Joan Didion lived a life in the public and priv In New York Times bestselling The Last Love Song, Tracy Daugherty, the critically acclaimed author of Hiding Man (a New Yorker and New York Times Notable book) and Just One Catch, delves deep into the life of distinguished American author and journalist Joan Didion in this, the first printed biography published about her life. Joan Didion lived a life in the public and private eye with her late husband, writer John Gregory Dunne, whom she met while the two were working in New York City when Didion was at Vogue and Dunne was writing for Time. They became wildly successful writing partners when they moved to Los Angeles and co-wrote screenplays and adaptations together. Didion is well-known for her literary journalistic style in both fiction and non-fiction. Some of her most-notable work includes Slouching Towards Bethlehem, Run River, and The Year of Magical Thinking, a National Book Award winner and shortlisted for the Pulitzer Prize, it dealt with the grief surrounding Didion after the loss of her husband and daughter. Daugherty takes readers on a journey back through time, following a young Didion in Sacramento, through to her adult life as a writer interviewing those who know and knew her personally, while maintaining a respectful distance from the reclusive literary great. The Last Love Song reads like fiction; lifelong fans, and readers learning about Didion for the first time will be enthralled with this impressive tribute.


Compare
Ads Banner

In New York Times bestselling The Last Love Song, Tracy Daugherty, the critically acclaimed author of Hiding Man (a New Yorker and New York Times Notable book) and Just One Catch, delves deep into the life of distinguished American author and journalist Joan Didion in this, the first printed biography published about her life. Joan Didion lived a life in the public and priv In New York Times bestselling The Last Love Song, Tracy Daugherty, the critically acclaimed author of Hiding Man (a New Yorker and New York Times Notable book) and Just One Catch, delves deep into the life of distinguished American author and journalist Joan Didion in this, the first printed biography published about her life. Joan Didion lived a life in the public and private eye with her late husband, writer John Gregory Dunne, whom she met while the two were working in New York City when Didion was at Vogue and Dunne was writing for Time. They became wildly successful writing partners when they moved to Los Angeles and co-wrote screenplays and adaptations together. Didion is well-known for her literary journalistic style in both fiction and non-fiction. Some of her most-notable work includes Slouching Towards Bethlehem, Run River, and The Year of Magical Thinking, a National Book Award winner and shortlisted for the Pulitzer Prize, it dealt with the grief surrounding Didion after the loss of her husband and daughter. Daugherty takes readers on a journey back through time, following a young Didion in Sacramento, through to her adult life as a writer interviewing those who know and knew her personally, while maintaining a respectful distance from the reclusive literary great. The Last Love Song reads like fiction; lifelong fans, and readers learning about Didion for the first time will be enthralled with this impressive tribute.

30 review for The Last Love Song: A Biography of Joan Didion

  1. 5 out of 5

    Boyd

    What do you call a Frankenstein's-monster patchwork of quotations from an array of other people's books and magazine articles, stitched together with appallingly bad, faux-novelistic prose? Well, if you're Tracy Daugherty, you call it "a literary biography." The few individuals the author managed to interview first-hand for this book include such critically important sources as the people who bought Didion's Brentwood house (they found it somewhat rundown) and a "former [movie] studio executive" What do you call a Frankenstein's-monster patchwork of quotations from an array of other people's books and magazine articles, stitched together with appallingly bad, faux-novelistic prose? Well, if you're Tracy Daugherty, you call it "a literary biography." The few individuals the author managed to interview first-hand for this book include such critically important sources as the people who bought Didion's Brentwood house (they found it somewhat rundown) and a "former [movie] studio executive" whose child(ren) attended the same school as Quintana Roo Dunne. Otherwise, it's a library / internet pasteup job all the way, as a quick perusal of the endless back-of-the-book annotation demonstrates. The resulting volume comprises a bunch of third-hand anecdotes that are as stale as last century's bread, and some insight-free literary and cultural commentary, dispensed in a tone of general disapprobation. If you're interested in the world's longest dentist's-office read and you're not too particular about style or originality, knock yourself out. Otherwise, wait for a respectable biography of Didion to come out--probably sometime after she's gone on to her reward.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Hank Stuever

    I originally passed on reading this, because I was, after so many years, kind of Joaned-out, and also people said there was nothing much new in it, which is indeed true -- if you've made a habit of deeply reading and knowing what there is to know about Joan Didion, there are very few fresh revelations here. But I did read the book, and it took forever. (Kind of funny how a book about a writer known for her spareness and conciseness can manage to weigh in at 500-plus pages -- and very dense pages I originally passed on reading this, because I was, after so many years, kind of Joaned-out, and also people said there was nothing much new in it, which is indeed true -- if you've made a habit of deeply reading and knowing what there is to know about Joan Didion, there are very few fresh revelations here. But I did read the book, and it took forever. (Kind of funny how a book about a writer known for her spareness and conciseness can manage to weigh in at 500-plus pages -- and very dense pages at that.) This is one of the rare cases where I happen to agree with both the bad reviews here on Goodreads as well as the raves. This book has its weaknesses, for sure -- primarily that Didion never granted Tracy Daugherty a single interview. But, as the recently released Didion documentary on Netflix demonstrates, having Joan Didion's full permission and cooperation isn't so great of an asset either. She just doesn't have a lot to say, and what she did have to say, she put on the page. A literary biography -- combing through her papers in archives -- makes the most sense. The assembly here is strong, though the first 100 pages (Didion's girlhood, college days and sorority-like joining of Vogue) are kind of a barrier to entry. Once the '60s get cooking (as does Joan's reputation as a writer), the book really picks up. And then, around 1987 ("Miami"), it starts to get really redundant for the last 150 pp. or so. Daugherty remains committed to his literary biography approach, sometimes offering some shrewd insights into Didion's work, and sometimes laying things on way too thick (do people reading a 500-page biography of Joan Didion really need to have the Patty Hearst kidnapping recapped for them for several pages?). The book also suffers a bit when, like anyone else who reads a lot of Didion, the author lapses into an imitation of her style. As time goes by, I'm alternately creeped out and fascinated by the enmeshed marriage and working relationship between Didion and her husband/muse/rival/partner John Gregory Dunne. There's a lot about him in this book and he pretty much comes across as a real, lifelong dick. I'd love to know what her career might have looked like if they'd never met. Maybe it never would have happened. Anyhow, it's hard to say who would get the most out of this book. Probably someone who has only just discovered Didion's work and wants to know EVERYTHING about her. Superfans will already know most of what's here, and casual admirers won't ever want to know this much. One thing's for certain: the next student who decides to write a term paper on Joan Didion now has quite the book to crib from, with excellent citations for more sources.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Eric

    Staggeringly bad, like something you'd read in Vanity Fair. Daugherty didn't have Didion's cooperation - but Didion is a singular stylist who has written plenty of memoirs, and Daugherty was able to consult her drafts in the Bancroft Library. That should have been enough to produce something more substantial than this. Daugherty is not resourceful or imaginative in his choice of filler (if you find Dominick Dunne's spat with Frank Sinatra and taste in bachelor pad decor matters of compelling int Staggeringly bad, like something you'd read in Vanity Fair. Daugherty didn't have Didion's cooperation - but Didion is a singular stylist who has written plenty of memoirs, and Daugherty was able to consult her drafts in the Bancroft Library. That should have been enough to produce something more substantial than this. Daugherty is not resourceful or imaginative in his choice of filler (if you find Dominick Dunne's spat with Frank Sinatra and taste in bachelor pad decor matters of compelling interest, then this is your book), and his period summaries are embarrassing ("Freedom Summer became the Summer of Love," shit like that). Read her books, especially the novels.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Kate

    I couldn't finish this book. It was just way too much information for me. I wanted more of Didion's life and less about the technicalities of writing.

  5. 5 out of 5

    El

    New Republic God, this looks good. New Republic God, this looks good.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Anthony Crupi

    Every hour devoted to this write-around was another hour stolen from the time I have left to revisit all the writing that made me a Didion acolyte in the first place.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Andrea

    I'm not 100% sure why I read this book, which is a fair description of how I felt while I was reading it. I ploughed through it because I borrowed it from the library, and there were holds on it. Maybe I would have enjoyed it more if I had picked it up when the mood struck me. As many reviewers have pointed out, Joan Didion did not participate in the writing of this biography, nor did any of her close friends or family. The biographer's materials are chiefly Joan Didion's published writing and in I'm not 100% sure why I read this book, which is a fair description of how I felt while I was reading it. I ploughed through it because I borrowed it from the library, and there were holds on it. Maybe I would have enjoyed it more if I had picked it up when the mood struck me. As many reviewers have pointed out, Joan Didion did not participate in the writing of this biography, nor did any of her close friends or family. The biographer's materials are chiefly Joan Didion's published writing and interviews, her archived papers, reviews of her books, and interviews with old friends, acquaintances, and others tangentially connected with Didion. Daugherty hews closely to Didion's own account of her life, with the result that this biography often reads like a chronological ordering of Didion's own descriptions of herself and her life. For example, the book makes only passing reference to the death of Didion's father, presumably because Didion hasn't written or spoken about it. That said, I liked revisiting Didion's writing, and the chronological presentation coupled with (limited) additional information puts her writing in the broader context of both her life and her times, but there is not much in this book that a reader of Didion wouldn't already know. What's more, the book is organized in parts and chapters, none of which are named or dated, and it's hard to navigate. I often found myself wondering what year we were in. A bigger problem is that Didion carefully crafted her public image, and this book reveals very little beyond what she chose to present of herself. There's not much critical distance, especially since Daugherty's "close reading" of Didion's self-presentation consists almost entirely of complimenting her on her craft. Daughtery dismisses any criticism of Didion's writing in a way that's off-putting. His critical evaluation is that her first novel (Run River) was her worst novel and her second last novel (Democracy) was her best. Didion claimed that we understand our world through the stories we tell ourselves. The way Daugherty charts the development of this idea is that, in the 1960s, Didion doubted that the premises of our stories still held, and, by the 1980s, she thought that there were coherent narratives out there, but they're hidden from us. That may be a fair evaluation of Didion, but it merely parrots what she herself already said. So what's the picture of Didion that emerges? She was an insider who sometimes felt like -- or chose to present herself as -- an outsider. She was connected and wealthy. She was nowhere near as frail as she sometimes made herself seem, but she often was felled by migraines and breakdowns. Her marriage was conflicted, but she and her husband supported each other in nearly everything. They were not exactly absent parents, but not totally present either. She was conservative in her youth, and merely disillusioned in her maturity. Above all, she was one of the most important American writers of the second half of the 20th century. Regarding this last point though, Daughtery is preaching to the choir; he will not convert the unconvinced. Although this biography often feels redundant, I'm reluctant to give it a low rating because it is thoughtful and thorough, given what the biographer had to work with. If you've already read a good chunk of Joan Didion, there isn't much here that you don't already know. I wish that there was either more critical analysis of her writing (less hagiography) or more new information.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Miriam

    This book made me buy a giant pair of sunglasses and a vintage dress from Hawaii. And then I got a migraine. The transformation is complete. Plus, JOAN DIDION WEARS UGGS--I feel vindicated. This book exposed some of my expectations of the biography genre. I expect interesting details about a person's life, insight into their work and public persona, and historical background of their life and times woven together with it all. I would say that this book delivered for the most part, but also had so This book made me buy a giant pair of sunglasses and a vintage dress from Hawaii. And then I got a migraine. The transformation is complete. Plus, JOAN DIDION WEARS UGGS--I feel vindicated. This book exposed some of my expectations of the biography genre. I expect interesting details about a person's life, insight into their work and public persona, and historical background of their life and times woven together with it all. I would say that this book delivered for the most part, but also had some lapses. She relies a lot on Blue Nights and some of Didion's other writing to give the behind-the-scenes details on her personal life, after having said that Didion's writing is a crafted persona, only revealing what she wants us to know. That seems problematic to me, and also not what I came for: where are the REAL behind-the-scenes detail from doing actual research? Obviously, there are some interviews and personal details unearthed, but much less than I expected. She also rushes through the 1990s and 2000s, whereas she lingers over the 1960s and 1970s. I guess that's to be expected for someone whose work was most in tune with her historical time then? The weaving of personal and historical was not always easy or skillful (especially having come from reading The Firebrand and the First Lady recently). Listening to the audiobook also limited my understanding of the writing--when does she have footnotes for how Didion or anyone else "felt" at the time or what they "thought" or how they acted in private? Also, she makes no distinction between what Didion "said" as in said aloud and what she "wrote" as in quotations from her published work, using those words interchangeably. Other than that, Daugherty's work is also literary criticism and also an author/fan imitating someone else's style for the fun and deliciousness of it. In some ways, I enjoyed her criticism, looking at Didion's language and pointing out stylistic choices, like the aforementioned persona crafting (fragility and weakness as honesty, openness, and strength) and the fact that many sentences in Play It As It Lays have the subject and verb as far apart as possible, inserting adverbs in slightly awkward places to help it happen to emphasize distance and dislocation. As for the copying of the writing, I found it pretentious even if understandable--I'd like to write like Didion, I like to savor her language. Listening to the audiobook, it wasn't always easy to hear the quotation marks, knowing when Daugherty was writing and when Didion was. But in some ways, I think that's the point.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Judy G

    I cannot say enough compliments about this biography by Tracy Daugherty. It is Outstanding and should be a model for other biographers. Joan is a product of the various eras and places where she has lived. Tracy includes all of that covering events of sixties and seventies and current and life in NYC and in Los Angeles. He tells her story with objectivity and it is stark. She was a mixed bag and mostly admired. It is also about her husbands family - the Dunnes and her daughter with a bizarre nam I cannot say enough compliments about this biography by Tracy Daugherty. It is Outstanding and should be a model for other biographers. Joan is a product of the various eras and places where she has lived. Tracy includes all of that covering events of sixties and seventies and current and life in NYC and in Los Angeles. He tells her story with objectivity and it is stark. She was a mixed bag and mostly admired. It is also about her husbands family - the Dunnes and her daughter with a bizarre name Quintana Roo. At the age of almost 80 she saw her husband and daughter die. As you would expect from Joan she is the survivor. This man can write and tell a story...

  10. 4 out of 5

    Jaclyn Day

    Early on, Daugherty notes that this will be a literary biography. (Also mentions he doesn’t do “dishy” biographies.) I’m fine with both those things. But–reader be warned–he wasn’t kidding about the literary part. While a very fine biography, it’s clear that the distance from the subject hurt the end result. Daugherty interprets and theorizes about her work vs. her life almost frantically from afar, perhaps making up for the fact that Didion (and her close friends, supposedly) did not cooperate Early on, Daugherty notes that this will be a literary biography. (Also mentions he doesn’t do “dishy” biographies.) I’m fine with both those things. But–reader be warned–he wasn’t kidding about the literary part. While a very fine biography, it’s clear that the distance from the subject hurt the end result. Daugherty interprets and theorizes about her work vs. her life almost frantically from afar, perhaps making up for the fact that Didion (and her close friends, supposedly) did not cooperate with the writing. He is anxious for intimacy with the subject, does not really achieve it, and settles for a very good chronology coupled with musings on what cultural or political or personal event influenced Didion’s work. I think time is better spent reading (or re-reading) Didion’s actual writing instead. I felt like I knew her better there than after reading 600-odd pages about her life.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Jenny

    2.5 Skip the bio. Read all of Joan's work instead. You will end up with the same amount of info about Ms. Didion and skip spending weeks reading 500+ pages of great quotes from her work intermixed with filler.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Chris Roberts

    Joan's worldview: The Cosmos of Me The molecular composition of the universe and on earth every mountain and forest too the granular deserts and ocean shores stretching unexceptional, all exist only as I allow them to be I am outside the common restraints of mortal men God is locked away in a Book the gaping sky is merely constructed to serve as one, two, three seconds of optical diversion the sun I permit its existence in order to frame me out in silhouette. Mourn myself only, always, forget Nero Joan's worldview: The Cosmos of Me The molecular composition of the universe and on earth every mountain and forest too the granular deserts and ocean shores stretching unexceptional, all exist only as I allow them to be I am outside the common restraints of mortal men God is locked away in a Book the gaping sky is merely constructed to serve as one, two, three seconds of optical diversion the sun I permit its existence in order to frame me out in silhouette. Mourn myself only, always, forget Nero and ready up the fiddle, I am burning. Chris Roberts

  13. 5 out of 5

    DoctorM

    A fine biography of one of my favourite writers. Very good on both the literary world of early 1960s NYC and the landscape and culture of two very different Californias--- the "Inland Empire" around Sacramento and the Hollywood of the 1970s. If I have a criticism, it's only that Daughtery needed to spend more time on Didion's developing prose style and on a "literary" analysis of her novels.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Jen

    I stopped reading this about 400 pages in. I wanted this to be something that it wasn't- a biography written by Walter Isaacson with Didion's cooperation. Instead, this was a biography not authorized by Didion and a regurgitation of quotes from her novels, interviews, etc. Don't waste your time.

  15. 4 out of 5

    James

    Well written biography of the life of Joan Didion. There was so much I learned that I had not known before. I will recommend this to all fans of Joan Didion. Won via Goodreads Giveaway.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Jill Meyer

    The author Joan Didion has always seemed to be fragile. Physically fragile, emotionally fragile, and, probably, literary fragile. Her writing seemed to careen between "precious" and "tough" - often in the same book or magazine article. Married to the author John Gregory Dunne, they were the parents of an adopted daughter they rather fancifully named "Quintana Roo", after their favorite place in Mexico. Didion lost both husband and daughter in the mid-2000's and wrote about the searing experience The author Joan Didion has always seemed to be fragile. Physically fragile, emotionally fragile, and, probably, literary fragile. Her writing seemed to careen between "precious" and "tough" - often in the same book or magazine article. Married to the author John Gregory Dunne, they were the parents of an adopted daughter they rather fancifully named "Quintana Roo", after their favorite place in Mexico. Didion lost both husband and daughter in the mid-2000's and wrote about the searing experiences. But, who really is Joan Didion? In her excellent biography, "The Last Love Song", Tracy Dougherty looks at the life of Didion and examines what made her the inexplicable literary figure she is. Joan Didion was born in Sacramento of parents who were both descended from long-time California families. The infamous Donner Party figures into Didion's ancestry and the searching for a place to settle also seems to have been a part of her life. She seemed never to completely feel she fit in to where she was, whether in Sacramento, Berkeley, New York, or, eventually, Los Angeles. Now, this may be my interpretation of Dougherty's analysis of Didion, but perhaps what seemed like eternal searching for her place might explain Didion's own perceptive writing. As a college student, Didion won two prestigious competitions and landed in New York City as a writer for Vogue. Her years in New York - most of the 1950's - included time spent in a hopeless romance with enfant-terrible Noel Parmentel and honing her writing. She finally married writer Greg Dunne and they eventually found great success by moving to Los Angeles in the early 1960's and writing for both magazines and films. Their marriage stayed intact but like most couples, they had their ups-and-downs. Their daughter also lived a life of emotional problems that might have come from her parents' raising her in a rather unconventional manner. Quintana was expected to fit into her parents' life. Eventually they moved back to New York City, where both father and daughter died and thin, fragile Joan Didion lives on into her 80's. Tracy Dougherty's book is a beautifully written look at both Joan Didion and John Gregory Dunne. It is also an examination of the changing and often difficult times in American history the two lived through and how Didion tried to interpret those changes to her own readers. I don't particularly care for Joan Didion after reading the biography, but I feel I understand her better. I still think she's fragile...but made of steel.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Michelle

    An absorbing Comprehensive authoritative 728 page “The Last Love Song” is the biography of Joan Didion authored by Tracy Daugherty. The book also highlights the Dunne family, who were also known as the Kennedy’s of Hartford. The changing times of American culture between the 1960’s and beyond is extensively covered, as is Didion’s cultural, political, literary criticism and essay throughout the book. As an intelligent child, Joan Didion (1934-) had a strong sense of her Sacramento, California fa An absorbing Comprehensive authoritative 728 page “The Last Love Song” is the biography of Joan Didion authored by Tracy Daugherty. The book also highlights the Dunne family, who were also known as the Kennedy’s of Hartford. The changing times of American culture between the 1960’s and beyond is extensively covered, as is Didion’s cultural, political, literary criticism and essay throughout the book. As an intelligent child, Joan Didion (1934-) had a strong sense of her Sacramento, California family pioneer heritage. It was unlikely her grandfather who rarely spoke, knew Joan’s or her brother’s names. Their father joined the National Guard in 1939 and the family moved frequently. Joan was a small, serious, anxious child viewed as “sensitive and frail” by her overbearing mother Eduene: who advised Joan on Emily Post etiquette, and gave her a notebook, which she recorded conversations often by eavesdropping. At Colorado Springs the family home was next to a psychiatric hospital and Joan “recorded snippets of anguished dialogue” and vocalized torment. In 1943, after seeing the movie “War of the Wildcats” she idolized John Wayne, in addition to Hemmingway. During high school Joan was a member of the exclusive “Manana Club” honors were held in the governor’s mansion. After being denied admission to Stanford in 1953, Joan attended the University of California at Berkley. Following college, Joan accepted a position at Vogue, where she arrived in NYC well read, fresh, disciplined with a strong work ethic. Many of her critics praise her early writing that covered controversial subjects as divorce, abortion, S&M, orgies and drugs, and additional darker subject matter. Joan’s short stories were rejected by several commercial magazines, she felt male authors were more successful. “Goodbye To All That” suggests a possible mental breakdown when Joan left NYC (1964). About 40 guests attended Joan and John Gregory Dunne’s (1932-2002) wedding ceremony on January 30, 1964, they settled in Los Angeles County, an a vicinity where the instability of the topsoil was known, yet it didn’t stop developers from building 150 new homes in 1961. Joan wrote a glowing review of Mailer’s “American Dream” (1965), and later supported his views against "Women's Liberation". Joan disapproved of defining women as a “class” and wrote less about inequality, which was the core issue of the feminist movement…. “To make an omelet” she explained, “you need not only broken eggs but someone oppressed to break them.”… Critic Pauline Kael accused Joan of supporting the “ultimate princess fantasy” calling her “ridiculous.” Joan wrote a critical article of Nancy Regan in The Saturday Evening Post, Mrs. Regan never forgave her stinging insult, and was mistrustful of the press from that point on. Still, critics observed that Joan wrote some of her finest essays from 1964-1969. California was at the center of social and cultural change, and the Dunne’s became a literary power couple, known for their articles, books, and successful scripts and screenplays. They hosted popular home parties attended by writers, actors, directors, musicians and other celebrities. There were difficulties in the Dunne marriage, likely, in part related to alcohol consumption, and Dunne’s heavier use of marijuana. He would seem depressed to friends, as he smoked alone, claiming that living with Joan was like living with a “piranha”. Joan decided that in spite her own self-absorbed and temperamental nature, it would be advantageous and prove she had “character" if she avoided divorce. Their adopted daughter Quintana Roo (1966-2005) had nightmares about “Broken Man”. As her daughter grew, there were behavioral problems, and the Dunne’s sought professional help for Quintana, who received varying diagnosis related to mental disorders. Joan dismissed the recommendations and advice for treatment, not fully trusting the experts. In relation to Joan’s essays and novels, a pattern emerged: she may have been difficult and/or disappointing to work with. “Run River” (1963) Joan’s first novel, received “tepid reviews.” Her editor Ivan Obolensky had a “wonderful” party at his home to celebrate its launch, yet declined to say anything positive of his time working with Joan. Didion’s and Dunne’s close friend and mentor Noel E. Parmentel Jr. (1927-) also a friend of Norman Mailer; couldn’t prove “malice” that an unsavory character in Joan’s novel “A Book of Common Prayer” (1977) was based on him. Their close friendship of over 2 decades ended. Joan’s editor, Henry Robbins ( 1928-1979) was dismayed when Joan abandoned her writing project on Charles Manson follower Linda Kasabain, missing a chance to write a notable book defining her abilities and career. Joan ignored requests to forward her notes. To her credit, Joan dedicated “After Henry” (1992) to Robbins memory. Daugherty explains the reasons behind the estrangement lasting for years between Gregory and his brother Dominick “Nicky” Dunne (1925-2009) following the tragic murder of his niece Dominique Dunne (1959-1982). Dominick Dunne, her father, was an author, outspoken victim rights advocate, and highly respected true crime journalist for Vanity Fair. Joan Didion’s writing remains influential and historic for contemporary authors and journalists who follow her work: Caitlin Flanagan, Meghan Daum, Katie Rophie. When Joan lectured in Berkley, students, faculty and others filled the arena to capacity to hear her speak. On July 10, 2013, at the White House Joan was awarded The National Humanities Medal by President Barrack Obama, he praised her for being among the most respected and sharpest observers of American Culture.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Jennine

    Definitely honours the subject in both content and quality of writing

  19. 5 out of 5

    Kiana

    Much like Joan, Tracy is master of revealing his subject's underbelly. This bio is, quite simply, a reminder of what it means to be woman, writer, human.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Laura

    DNF. I recommend watching the Netflix documentary The Center Will Not Hold.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Lee Kofman

    I was so looking forward to reading Joan Didion’s first ever biography, but unfortunately the book didn’t do for me what I hoped it would. It offered a reasonably good literary analysis of, and context for, her entire oeuvre – this for me was the highlight of this biography. But there was very little there on her writing process and the sources of her inspiration which is something I came to expect from good literary biographies (having read many books in this genre). The largest flaw of the boo I was so looking forward to reading Joan Didion’s first ever biography, but unfortunately the book didn’t do for me what I hoped it would. It offered a reasonably good literary analysis of, and context for, her entire oeuvre – this for me was the highlight of this biography. But there was very little there on her writing process and the sources of her inspiration which is something I came to expect from good literary biographies (having read many books in this genre). The largest flaw of the book, though, is that… there is simply not much of Joan Didion in there! The author’s intent seemed to be to write Didion’s story as the larger story of America too. However, in this book we mostly get the latter. The balance is just not there. There is so little of Didion in Didion’s biography! By the end of it I didn’t really feel I got the sense of her as a person (although I was delighted to discover some things I fancy to be sharing with her – passion for cooking and view of cooking as relaxation; non-committal non-orthodox politics; love of gardening and generally of domesticity). I feel I now know much more about her brother-in-law who occupied a ridiculously large portion of the book, and much more about American history than I need to know, but where is Joan??? Daugherty’s artistic decision to write this biography creatively, something I normally would get excited about, contributed to my irritation. Often his prose is beautiful, poetic, but there are many passages written as if from Didion’s perspective (e.g. she sat there and thought about her husband…), but then this perspective is totally generic and there is really very little insight into her unique psychology, so this choice of writing only contributed to my sense of futility in reading this book. I think the main problem is that the book is thin on meaty interviews and the writer didn’t have access to Didion herself. I look forward to reading her next biography, which I am sure will follow at some point, as this one contains too many gaps.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Sull

    Marvellous in-depth exploration of Didion and her world as she grew into one of the literary-political taste-makers of the 60, 70s, 80s. I was never one of her big fans, but found her non-fiction always interesting to read. Such an odd mix of hiding and revealing of her own opinions and angst, the writing shy yet authoritative, pained yet peevish.... And this biography is what the Joni Mitchell book purported to be, an analysis of the "life and times", but this is the real deal, where Daughterty Marvellous in-depth exploration of Didion and her world as she grew into one of the literary-political taste-makers of the 60, 70s, 80s. I was never one of her big fans, but found her non-fiction always interesting to read. Such an odd mix of hiding and revealing of her own opinions and angst, the writing shy yet authoritative, pained yet peevish.... And this biography is what the Joni Mitchell book purported to be, an analysis of the "life and times", but this is the real deal, where Daughterty carefully and deftly paints in the backgrounds and the atmospheres of all those different 'worlds' the subject inhabited as she grew from her childhood in one of the 'Old California' families, into a hungry young reporter in New York City, to half-famous Hollywood scriptwriter with her husband, to fully famous world traveler as "interpreter" of her times. You really don't have to like (or even perhaps to know) Didion and her writing to find this book fascinating. Maybe it's a book about America, or maybe about the world as it changed into what we have now.... It was so good that on finishing it I immediately went to the library to find Daughterty's first 'big' biography, "Hiding Man" on the life of Donald Barthelme.

  23. 5 out of 5

    lisbethinsydney

    Extraordinary chronicling of American psychoses about a chronicler of American psychoses. This is about Joan Didion's life and times, the latter in particular. I haven't learnt so much from a book with such enjoyment in years. So many astounding passages and lines underlined, corners of pages folded over to get quickly to some remarkable observation or fact. From the drug-addled hippie sixties to Hollywood murders, the Kennedy assassinations and the Vietnam War, followed by Richard Nixon, Patty Extraordinary chronicling of American psychoses about a chronicler of American psychoses. This is about Joan Didion's life and times, the latter in particular. I haven't learnt so much from a book with such enjoyment in years. So many astounding passages and lines underlined, corners of pages folded over to get quickly to some remarkable observation or fact. From the drug-addled hippie sixties to Hollywood murders, the Kennedy assassinations and the Vietnam War, followed by Richard Nixon, Patty Hearst and so many other bizarre events that formed the backdrop to and seeped into the narratives of Didion's writing. It makes Didion more interesting than her sometimes over-worked prose. Daugherty has a lively intelligence and an excellent writing style and observations of his own to contribute but is invisible otherwise, as it should be. Even today, Didion's sharp, principled voice pinpoints lack of irony as characterising Obama's terms as president. She understands the political process like no other writer and that the world cannot be made better by politics. There is always the intractable problem of human nature. I love this book.

  24. 5 out of 5

    False

    I've never properly bonded with Didion as a person or writer, and I have tried over time and many a time. Too dispassionate a voice, I think. You feel the remove and yet, according to this biography, she cries often. I'm not asking her to bleed on the page, just to get the sense she is also part of this experience. I never took to her husband's writing, at all, and yet I loved reading her brother-in-law, just to see how many names he could drop in one paragraph. Since I have read all of Didion ( I've never properly bonded with Didion as a person or writer, and I have tried over time and many a time. Too dispassionate a voice, I think. You feel the remove and yet, according to this biography, she cries often. I'm not asking her to bleed on the page, just to get the sense she is also part of this experience. I never took to her husband's writing, at all, and yet I loved reading her brother-in-law, just to see how many names he could drop in one paragraph. Since I have read all of Didion (I don't give up easily,) and other biographies, I would say this particular book was of most value, for me, in discussing her work decade in New York before she returned to California. She was young, she was a hard, driven worker, and she would leave work to put in even more time on her own product--a first novel. I had read many times now of her generational history in California and it's importance in her writing. Whenever she needed a retreat, she was able to go home again, despite what might seem parental indifference. She had a haven, despite it's rattlesnakes.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Sherry

    Not a reader of Didion, I was nonetheless taken with this book, which is a history of California, of Hollywood, of political and international events. It's a look at how one makes a living as a writer. It is an inside look at publishing - books, journalism, screenplays. I was reminded of news events from the late 1950's onward and I got behind-the-scenes looks at how the news is told to us.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Janis

    The only thing keeping me going is my love for all things D. and my familiarity and interest in the history of the Sacramento Valley. I have been ranting at the author throughout that too much of the voice is his own, and it's riddled with subjective observation, which I'm exhausted with speculating how he could know such things.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Kristen

    Not a bad read, but nothing that anyone who has read Didion's own books -- or a few stories about her -- would find too interesting. Well written, but ultimately, nothing that makes it a "wow."

  28. 4 out of 5

    Jenny

    I can't imagine one who is even in the faintest of ways obsessed with Joan Didion avoiding this book. Drop down, drag out must.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Cokie

    Better to read Didion than to read about someone else reading Didion.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Frederic

    Good,solid First Biography...short on scandalous gossip and long on appreciation of the work...

Add a review

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Loading...
We use cookies to give you the best online experience. By using our website you agree to our use of cookies in accordance with our cookie policy.