How Joan Didion Became Joan Didion

Joan-didion-doc-3Michelle Dean at Buzzfeed News:

By the time Kazin’s profile was published, Didion was, quite simply, a star. But the Saturday Evening Post, the place that had let her write lyrically about migraines, about going home to Sacramento, or that flew her to Hawaii for a piece, had folded. She looked for other homes. Lifemagazine offered her a contract to write a column. But the relationship soured immediately; Didion asked to go to Saigon, because many writers—including Sontag and McCarthy—had already been there. Her editor demurred, telling her that “some of the guys are going out.” Her anger at this blithe dismissal turned into the now-famous column she wrote about visiting Hawaii during the prediction of a huge tidal wave:

My husband switches off the television set and stares out the window. I avoid his eyes, and brush the baby’s hair. In the absence of a natural disaster we are left again to our own uneasy devices. We are here on this island in the middle of the Pacific in lieu of filing for divorce.

This essay poses as self-revelation, but here the frame of marital trouble dissolves. Didion begins telling you instead how disconnected she had felt from everything, how difficult it was to feel. She confesses that she has become, as that old boyfriend predicted, someone who feels nothing. The piece is so relentlessly dark and despairing it is no wonder the Life editors were apparently startled by it. They gave it a title that reflected their bewilderment: “A Problem of Making Connections.”

more here.