Beyond the Book: Background information when reading The Year of Magical Thinking

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The Year of Magical Thinking

by Joan Didion

The Year of Magical Thinking by Joan Didion
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  • First Published:
    Oct 2005, 240 pages
    Paperback:
    Feb 2007, 214 pages

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Joan Didion was born in Sacramento, California in 1934, and graduated from the University of California at Berkeley in 1956. She is the author of five novels and eight books of non-fiction. Her 1968 collection of essays, Slouching Toward Bethlehem and her book, The White Album (1979), made her famous as an observer of American politics and culture with a distinctive style that mixed personal reflection with social analysis. In 2001 she published Political Fictions which targeted political conservatives with pieces aimed at Newt Gingrich and the Religious Right. This was a radical shift from her earlier writing which had ridiculed various aspects of liberalism. She attributed her shift in opinion to the Republican Party's own shift away from the values of an earlier generation; specifically the values espoused by Barry Goldwater, a five-term Senator from Arizona, and the Republican Presidential candidate in 1964 (losing to Lyndon B Johnson). Goldwater was a founding figure in the modern USA conservative movement and personified the shift in balance of American culture from Northeast to West.

John Gregory Dunne (1932 - 2003), younger brother of author Dominick Dunne, worked as a journalist at Time magazine after graduating from Princeton University. Following their marriage in 1964, Joan and he collaborated on a number of screenplays including A Star Is Born (1976) and True Confessions (1981), adapted from his 1977 novel of the same name. He was a frequent contributor to the New York Review of Books; many of his essays are collected in Quintana & Friends and Crooning. His twelfth book, a novel titled Nothing Lost, was published posthumously in 2004.

Quotes from Joan Didion

  • The willingness to accept responsibility for one's own life is the source from which self-respect springs.
  • Grammar is a piano I play by ear. All I know about grammar is its power.
  • The writer is always tricking the reader into listening to their dream.

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This article was originally published in November 2005, and has been updated for the February 2007 paperback release. Click here to go to this issue.

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