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Joan Didion was born in Sacramento, and both her parents, too, were native Californians.She studied English at Berkeley, and in 1956, after graduating, she won an essay contest sponsored by (2003).‘In a world we understand early to be characterized by venality and doubt and paralyzing ambiguities, he suggested another world…
The work process is totally different from writing nonfiction. You have no notes—or sometimes you do, I made extensive notes for —but the notes give you only the background, not the novel itself. Writing nonfiction is more like sculpture, a matter of shaping the research into the finished thing. Of course you can rewrite, but the original strokes are still there in the texture of the thing. DIDION When I’m working on a book, I constantly retype my own sentences.
Novels are like paintings, specifically watercolors. Every day I go back to page one and just retype what I have. Once I get over maybe a hundred pages, I won’t go back to page one, but I might go back to page fifty-five, or twenty, even.
In the spring of 2005, Didion was awarded a Gold Medal from the American Academy of Arts and Letters.
In December of 2003, shortly before their fortieth anniversary, Didion’s husband died.
When Didion’s first interview appeared in these pages in 1978, she was intent on exploring her gift for fiction and nonfiction.
Since then, her breadth and craft as a writer have only grown deeper with each project.
It’s precisely her authorial presence that lends credence, honesty and depth to her work.
Her subjectivity makes her observations all the more resonant, and in a way, more accurate too.
How would you describe the difference between writing the one or the other?
JOAN DIDION Writing fiction is for me a fraught business, an occasion of daily dread for at least the first half of the novel, and sometimes all the way through.