Joan Didion, author and pioneering "New Journalist," RIP

Joan Didion, pioneer of the New Journalism that emerged in the latter half of the 20th century, has died at age 87. Didon's highly influential essay collections "Slouching Towards Bethlehem" (1968) and "The White Album" (1979), whose documentation of 1960s California helped make sense of the 1960s California counterculture while pushing the boundaries of subjective, personal reporting. Later, Didion moved to political reporting and cultural criticism. From the New York Times:

Her attraction to trouble spots, disintegrating personalities and incipient chaos came naturally. In the title essay from "The White Album," she included her own psychiatric evaluation after arriving at the outpatient clinic of St. John's Hospital in Santa Monica complaining of vertigo and nausea.

It read, in part: "In her view she lives in a world of people moved by strange, conflicted, poorly comprehended, and, above all, devious motivations which commit them inevitably to conflict and failure." This description, which Ms. Didion did not contest, could describe the archetypal heroine of her novels.

"Her talent was for writing about the mood of the culture," the writer Katie Roiphe said in an interview. "She managed to channel the spirit of the 1960s and '70s through her own highly idiosyncratic and personal — that is, seemingly personal — writing. She was perfectly matched to the times, with her slightly paranoid, slightly hysterical, high-strung sensibility. It was a perfect conjunction of the writer with the moment."

image: David Shankbone (CC BY-SA 3.0)