Joan Didion is more than just an author; she’s an icon. She is an essayist, novelist, journalist, and everything in between. Didion is one of the most famous authors of all time. After the 1968 release of Slouching Towards Bethlehem, she gained a cult following of avid fans that has yet to cease.
And I, personally, am a part of that cult. I love Joan Didion with an intensity I could never begin to fully explain. From the moment I read On Self-Respect, she owned a part of my soul. I collect her essays like they’re going out-of-style (which they never will, obviously). She’s the writer I turn to whenever I feel my own writer’s block creeping in; she never fails to shake up my thoughts and make me see things differently.
Also, she’s taught me so much, and I don’t just mean in the emotional sense! She has taught me about water, about the Women’s Movement, all about the state of California (which I will be relocating to for the next six weeks in, like, four days and Didion has helped soothe my very anxious East Coast heart more than I could ever thank her for.), New York City, and so, so much more.
Joan Didion is above all else; she exists on a plane that is entirely her own. Her writing is bold, honest, dry, descriptive-yet-casual; she can make anything relatable, interesting, and easy to understand. She is the Queen of words. And, what better way to honor her ever-growing legacy than with some lesser-known facts about the wordsmith herself?
1. Didion is an insanely killer cook.
While everyone in the 1960’s was wasted out on hallucinogens and party favors, she spent her evenings cooking elaborate meals for dinner parties of thirty-to-forty guests.
2. Nancy Reagan loathes her
After interviewing her for The Saturday Evening Post in 1968, Reagan was less-than-thrilled to find the piece dripping with Didion’s famed bluntness and ever-so-slightly-sarcastic edge, calling her a “bitch” and a “hack”. (Also, how angering is it to see someone refer to Queen Didion that way? Show some respect, Nancy!)
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3. She told Vogue she spoke Middle English.
In her application to Vogue in 1965, Didion wrote “middle English” when asked what languages she speaks. (Didion’s dry humor has been winning for decades.)
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4. Warren Beatty was Didion’s not-so-secret admirer for years.
Apparently his love and constant come-ons to his close (and married) friend were a running joke amidst their inner circle.
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5. Harrison Ford was hired by Didion to help renovate her home in Malibu.
This was years before his own fame would erupt, and Ford has publicly spoken about how grateful he was to always be invited to Didion’s house parties, even when he was simply working as her carpenter.
(Can you spot Harrison Ford back in his carpenter days?)
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6. A babysitter predicted her daughter’s death
In 1966, the babysitter Didion hired to watch over her daughter Quintana told her Quintana had an “aura of death surrounding her”. Quintana passed away on August 26, 2005 at the age of thirty-nine.
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7. She freezes her manuscripts
Didion would put her manuscripts in a plastic bag and stick them in the freezer whenever she had writer’s block. (Even Joan Didion struggles with writer’s block!)
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How lucky are we to be alive at the same time as this literal legend? Long live Joan Didion, huzzah!
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