Reading Joan Didion
by Lynn Marie Houston and William V. Lombardi
August 2009, 159pp, 6 1/8x9 1/4
1 volume, Libraries Unlimited

Hardcover: 978-0-313-36403-7
$40, £30, 34€, A58
eBook Available: 978-0-313-36404-4
Please contact your preferred eBook vendor for pricing.

Few writers captured the transformation from the promise of the 1960s to the malaise of the 1970s like Joan Didion. Few have ever dared as wrenching and cathartic a portrait of grief as Didion’s recent A Year of Magical Thinking. In between stands an incisive body of work that solidifies Didion’s role as a key literary voice of her generation.

This book is a compelling reference guide for book clubs on the work of Joan Didion, with summaries of her major works and discussion questions.

Reading Joan Didion is the ideal way to enter this extraordinary and versatile author’s world—a world that counts among its citizens burned-out hippies, cynical and delusional players in the film and music scene, and even members of the Charles Manson family.

In addition to looking closely at major works of fiction, Reading Joan Didion also focuses on Didion the essayist, critic, and founding member of the New Journalism Movement, which uses fiction-like narrative techniques to go deeper into subjects that traditional objective reporting allows. Also covered is the rich screenwriting partnership of Didion and husband John Gregory Dunne, and the overwhelming late-career success of The Year of Magical Thinking, written in the aftermath of Dunne’s shocking death and completed just before the author’s daughter also passed away unexpectedly.

Features

  • Discussion questions on Joan Didion's works, literary movements, and literary analysis
  • An exhaustive bibliography of additional writings about Didion as well as similar authors and books
Lynn Marie Houston is assistant professor of American literature in the English Department at California State University, Chico, CA.

William V. Lombardi is a graduate student in the English Department at California State University, Chico, CA. Lombardi currently studies concepts of spatial production in regional and environmental literature under the direction of Dr. Lynn Houston.

Reviews

"Houston and Lombardi (both American literature, California State U., Chico) offer a reader’s guide to the work of California novelist, essayist, and journalist Joan Didion. Introductory chapters summarize the author’s career and discuss the relationship of her writing to 20th century genres, including New Journalism and feminist writing. The chapters that follow explore craft and themes in six of Didion’s works: Run River, Slouching Towards Bethlehem, Play It As It Lays, The White Album, Where I Was From (a 2003 memoir), and 2006’s The Year of Magical Thinking. Remaining chapters discuss Didion’s work as it treats modern issues and pop culture, her presence in the media, and insights from the internet on her career. A suggested reading list concludes the text."—Reference & Research Book News, November 1, 2009
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