Happy birthday, Joan Didion! The writer who made a name for herself with her first novel, Run, River, and her first book of literary journalism, Slouching Towards Bethlehem, turned 78 today. These books established herself as a keen social critic, as they both chronicle life in northern California. All of this, before she was 35 years old.
Since then, Didion has published five works of fiction and 13 works of nonfiction, including The Year of Magical Thinking, an analysis of the grief she experienced after her husband's sudden death, which won her a National Book Award.
Needless to say, we think she has some great advice to offer on writing, storytelling, memory and the passage of time. Here are 11 of our favorite Didionisms:
"I write entirely to find out what I'm thinking, what I'm looking at, what I see and what it means. What I want and what I fear."
"Life changes in the instant. The ordinary instant."
"Novels are like paintings, specifically watercolors. Every stroke you put down you have to go with. Of course you can rewrite, but the original strokes are still there in the texture of the thing."
“We were not having any fun, he had recently begun pointing out. I would take exception (didn't we do this, didn't we do that) but I had also known what he meant. He meant doing things not because we were expected to do them or had always done them or should do them but because we wanted to do them. He meant wanting. He meant living.”
"Writers are always selling somebody out."
"We forget all too soon the things we thought we could never forget."
“We tell ourselves stories in order to live.”
“To free us from the expectations of others, to give us back to ourselves--there lies the great, singular power of self-respect.”
“You have to pick the places you don't walk away from.”
“Life changes fast. Life changes in the instant. You sit down to dinner and life as you know it ends.”
“Time is the school in which we learn."
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