Joan Didion, Storied Author and Cultural Critic, Dead at 87

Joan Didion, the storied author and New Journalism icon best known for books like Play It As It Lays, The White Album, and The Year of Magical Thinking, died Thursday, Dec. 22, The New York Times reports. She was 87.

Didion died at her home in Manhattan after a battle with Parkinson’s disease, a spokesperson for her publisher, Knopf, confirmed. “Didion was one of the country’s most trenchant writers and astute observers,” the statement read. “Her best-selling works of fiction, commentary, and memoir have received numerous honors and are considered modern classics.”  

Didion was a prolific and multi-faceted writer, as well regarded for her novels, memoirs, and screenplays as her essays, cultural criticism, and investigative reporting. Early in her career, she was the go-to chronicler of California at its countercultural peak, and managed to create a new genre of essay — the “I’m Leaving New York City” essay — with her celebrated 1967 piece, “Goodbye to All That.”  With her husband, John Gregory Dunne, Didion wrote screenplays for films like The Panic in Needle Park, the 1976 adaptation of A Star is Born, and an adaptation of her own novel, Play It As It Lays. 

In her extensive political reporting, she covered everything from the civil war in El Salvador to U.S. political campaigns; and as a critic she investigated the way media shaped perceptions of major events (she published one of the earliest challenges to the guilty verdict in the Central Park Five case, which was later overturned). In 2005, Didion won the National Book Award for Nonfiction and was nominated for the Pulitzer Prize for The Year of Magical Thinking, her memoir chronicling her life and grief after Dunne’s sudden death in 2003.  

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