Patricia Lockwood at the LRB:
The first thoughts about Joan Didion are not reasonable. The present literature about her is a hagiography that does not entirely trust itself; there is a vacancy at the centre of it that I call the ‘but surely’. But surely if these essays were published now, the hagiography says to itself at three in the morning, they would meet with a different reception? But surely if she wrote today, her ideas about feminism would be more in line with ours? But surely, for all her pointillism, she is failing to draw the conclusions we would most like to see? The hagiography turns the pillow over, looking for a cool spot. How much can we really rely on someone who loved The Doors? Why do all her last lines give the impression that she’s speaking from beyond the veil? What, in the end, is she actually saying? But surely she has told us that herself, and all along. What she is saying, standing in the corner of every piece, holding her yellow legal pad and watching, is: ‘I was there.’
The Centre Will Not Hold, the new Netflix documentary directed by her nephew Griffin Dunne, lacks the three-in-the-morning question. It begins with a bridge and a blur, close-ups of bare feet and fresh typewriter ink. A rat crawls over a hippie, to show that in the Swinging Sixties, anything can happen. When Didion herself appears, her mouth is bright with lipstick and amused. Her gestures are as large as fireworks.