Joan Didion Chronicled American Disorder

Parul Sehgal at The New York Times:

Joan Didion was 5 years old when she wrote her first story, upon the instruction of her mother, who had told her to stop whining and to write down her thoughts. She amused herself by describing a woman who imagines she is about to freeze to death, only to die burning instead.

“I have no idea what turn of a 5-year-old’s mind could have prompted so insistently ‘ironic’ and exotic a story,” she later wrote. “It does reveal a certain predilection for the extreme which has dogged me into adult life.”

For half a century, Didion, who died on Thursday at 87, was the grand diagnostician of American disorder in essays of strong, unmistakable cadence, churning with floods and fire.

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