Reading Joan Didion

Reading Joan Didion

Reading Joan Didion

Reading Joan Didion

Synopsis

This book is a compelling reference guide for book clubs on the work of Joan Didion, with summaries of her major works and discussion questions.

• Discussion questions on Joan Didion's works, literary movements, and literary analysis

• An exhaustive bibliography of additional writings about Didion as well as similar authors and books

Excerpt

Joan Didion’s work can be deceptively complex. While she has perfected a signature style that often involves a rather sparse sentence structure, her words pack verbal punches. Unpacking those “verbal punches,” the emotional weight they carry, and the historical and cultural artifacts that they reference was a harder task than either of us imagined. We learned that although a writer like Didion pares down her verbiage, this does not mean that her writing lacks sophistication; in fact, “less is more” when it comes to Didion’s writing style. Despite the challenges that her work presented, we both are glad to have had this opportunity to lay out for readers of all backgrounds the trajectory of Didion’s career and her contributions to American literature. What thrills us the most is being able to educate those readers who may be too easily swayed by Didion’s critics. Many of the criticisms leveled against her work reveal a failure to understand that her writing documents national identity by conjuring up bold outlines of sentiments that are only selectively colored in. Because she does not finish “coloring in” some of these images, her writing is deemed lacking. However, Didion’s style relies on the reader to bring something to her work. Her focus is the twentieth-century ennui that results from our disenchantment with grand narratives; she purposefully structures the masterful lacunae in her writing. To truly see the contribution Didion makes through her literature, one must have an appreciation for what is not there; one must see the beauty in what is left unsaid. Her style captures the disappointment of those who have reluctantly relinquished their desire for control over a disordered universe. Her work repeatedly suggests the darker sides of the social and economic revolutions of twentieth-century America by showing the negative consequences that ensue from the decline of the family unit, from . . .

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