Today in her Manhattan apartment, a literary legend and figure has died. Joan Didion, writer and essayist, has passed away from complications of Parkinson’s disease at 87-years-old according to her publisher, Penguin Random House.
“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 said in a statement.
Didion was a skilled master of literary eloquence and a perceptive journalist. One of the leading figures of the “New Journalism” movement that developed in the 1960s and ’70s, her influence on writing and American culture and society are unrivaled.
Stylized in large, black sunglasses and sharp eyes like a blade, Didion was a master of prose that struck with concise clarity. Her writing on the politics and society of the 1960s and ’70s, specifically the counterculture of the ’60s, was characteristic of frank sincerity that spared no one from her personal wit and intuition. It’s unexplainable the amount of influence that Didion had on American writing and culture—it is easier to say that Didion was the movement, while everything else followed.
Didion married author John Gregory Dunne in 1964, and two years later they adopted a baby girl, Quintana. Dunne died from a heart attack in 2003 and their daughter died in 2005 at the age of 39 from acute pancreatitis. From the chaotic aftermath of her husband’s death, she recorded her personal grief that led to the publishing of her memoir, The Year of Magical Thinking. Didion’s novel won the 2005 National Book Award for Nonfiction. In 2011, she published a memoir, Blue Nights, dedicated to her daughter.