Some of the items that have accompanied writer Joan Didion throughout her life, author of “The Year of Magical Thinking” and the screenplay for “A Star Is Born,” will be auctioned off this November in New York..
Titled “An American Icon: Property from the Joan Didion Collection,” the auction is being organized by Casa Steer Galleries and will be promoted through a gallery opening at the end of October in Hudson, New York.
Born in 1934 in Sacramento, California, Joan Didion had an unconventional upbringing. Her father, a US Air Force officer, flirted a lot with the job Joanne wrote in her 2003 autobiography, Where Were From, and because of the countless deportations, she ended up feeling like a “permanent outsider.”
Didion graduated from the University of California, and in her final year of college won an essay competition, the Prix de Paris, organized by Vogue magazine. The award was working as a documentarian in Vogue, Didion’s work magazine for seven years, from 1956 to 1964.
Homesickness inspires her to write her first novel, “Run, River,” which was assisted in editing by writer John Gregory Dunn, then a journalist for Time magazine. The two married in 1964 and moved to Los Angeles, which would become their home for 20 years.
In 1966, John and Joan adopted a baby girl, Quintana Roo Den, and began writing for several publications, an activity that was initially intended to cover daily expenses, but soon proved very profitable. “Their prices allowed them to rent a Hollywood villa, buy a banana-colored Corvette, raise a child and eat out,” wrote The New Yorker in the 1960s.
Joan Didion’s first non-fiction book, Slowching Towards Bethlehem, appeared in 1968 and is considered a representative work of new journalism, an unconventional style of journalism at the time: although based on real facts, the writing incorporates new techniques; Include in the story the author’s feelings or point of view about relevant facts; Details or quotes are created to add color to the narration, and metaphors are used to help the reader better understand the context. The New York Times, when the book came out, wrote that it was “complicated, meticulous, graceful, and ridiculous.”
Dunn and Didion have collaborated closely throughout their careers. They co-wrote the plays and film scripts, most famously “Up Close and In Person”, with Robert Redford and Michelle Pfeiffer, and “A Star Is Born”, 1976 edition, with Kris Kristofferson and Barbra Streisand.
The end of 2003 marked a turning point in the life of Joan Didion. Her daughter developed pneumonia and went into septic shock. While in a coma in the intensive care unit, her father died suddenly of a heart attack. Joanne postponed her husband’s funeral for nearly three months until her daughter had recovered and could attend the funeral.
Meanwhile, she began writing The Year of Magical Thinking, her story of the death of her husband and the illness of her daughter, considered a masterpiece of the memoir-writing genius, but also of investigative journalism, and won the National Book Award for Nonfiction Books.
After her father’s funeral, while visiting Los Angeles, Quintana Roo fell at the airport and hit her head. While recovering from subsequent surgery, he developed acute pancreatitis and died in August 2005, at the age of 39.
Joan Didion chronicled her daughter’s death in her book Blue Nights in 2011. She died in December 2021, at the age of 87, in her Manhattan apartment.
Joan Didion was a member of the American Academy of Arts and Letters and the American Philosophical Society. Both Harvard and Yale universities awarded him an honorary Doctor of Arts degree. The writer has received the PEN Lifetime Achievement Award and the Evelyn F. Burkey Award from the Writers Guild of America, and was awarded the National Medal of Arts by President Barack Obama.
Auction house specialists gained access to the apartment on the Upper East Side, New York, the last residence of Joan Didion and her writer husband John Gregory Dunn.
The writer’s collection of paintings will be auctioned off, with signed paintings by Richard Diebenkorn, Sam Francis and Ed Ruscha – gifts given to Joan by the artists. Also on sale will be the collection of books signed by American authors and a series of photographs taken by photographers such as Brigitte Lacombe, Annie Leibovitz, Mary Ellen Mark and Julian Wasser Lejoan.
Julian Wasser’s 1968 portraits of the writer in the driveway of her Hollywood home next to a yellow Corvette Stingray are emblematic of time, place and who Joan Didion was at the time.