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If you like Joan Didion's story, you might also like:
Maya Angelou,
Nora Ephron,
Louise Glück,
Nadine Gordimer,
Khaled Hosseini,
John Irving,
Norman Mailer,
Joyce Carol Oates,
Carol Shields,
Amy Tan,
John Updike,
Gore Vidal
and Tom Wolfe

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Joan Didion
Joan Didion
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Joan Didion Interview (page: 4 / 6)

National Book Award

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  Joan Didion

Do you carve out certain hours of the day that are devoted to writing, or is it sort of as the mood strikes you?

Joan Didion: I work every day. Sometimes I don't accomplish anything every day, but if I don't work every day, I get depressed and get afraid to start again. So I do something every day.

Seven days a week?

Joan Didion: Yeah. Obviously, today I'm not doing something, and tomorrow I'm not doing something because I'm flying. So it will take me about three days this week to get to working again.

So you feel like if you stay away from it for very long, you won't feel confident enough to go back. Even today?

Joan Didion: Even more so now, because I know I'll lose the impetus to do it.

We interviewed John Updike, and he said when he sees his books in the bookstore, he always feels like he got away with something. It's astonishing that someone of his stature would still have that insecurity.

Joan Didion: It's not an occupation that attracts really secure people. I've never really examined it, but I suppose it's a kind of secret activity which you can undertake on your own. In fact, you need to undertake it on your own. It doesn't increase your socialization.

You have said that you write to find out how you feel.

Joan Didion: And what you think.

When commentators look at your work, they sometimes group you with the so-called "New Journalists" --Tom Wolfe and so on. In your non-fiction, you've always been present as a character, as a protagonist in a way.

Joan Didion: I had a strong feeling that it was necessary, that there was no reason to trust the reporter unless you knew where the reporter was. And if you didn't know where the reporter was standing, then I really objected to the notion of objectivity, soi disant objectivity, because it didn't seem to me very real. The reporter is always standing someplace.

[ Key to Success ] Integrity

Joan Didion: I don't mean that he is biased, you just want to know where he's standing, so that you can triangulate different reports from different people against each other.

It's paradoxical. You've described yourself as being soft-spoken, yet in your writing, you are very outspoken.

Joan Didion: That's another sneaky part of it. It's a place where I can be someone other than my exact face to the world.

So there's a difference between how you are in the world and your writing?

Joan Didion: I think there is less of a difference now, but there certainly was a difference.

Could you tell us about how you met John Gregory Dunne and how you came to work together as a team?

Joan Didion: We were friends for a long time before we decided to get married. I met him, he was working for Time. He was writing foreign news for Time, and he was just someone I liked and he made me laugh, and we would occasionally have lunch. We had friends in common. Then, for some reason -- I don't remember exactly why -- but one night we had dinner. He said he was going to drive to Hartford the next day -- he was from Hartford -- did I want to come up, and I said sure. So I went up to Hartford, where his family lived, and I was so taken with this entire family that we started seeing each other in a more serious light. Really, at that time, he was, as I said, working for Time. I had published one novel. Neither one of us was very well established, and we went to California and started supporting ourselves by writing pieces. So that required one or the other of us -- me to read his pieces, him to read my pieces. So we began to trust each other as first reader.

At what point did you and your husband first collaborate on something together?

Joan Didion: We didn't collaborate until we wrote a screenplay, which I think was 1969. We did Panic in Needle Park. That's all we ever collaborated on was screenplays.

Did that change the balance of how you worked together as editors?

Joan Didion: No, because it was a totally different activity.

And also because you were dealing with a studio? As in A Star is Born?

Joan Didion: You're always dealing with somebody else. Yes.

We did A Star is Born in 1972 or '3, yeah. That movie was actually John's idea, because it was conceived as a rock-and-roll remake of A Star is Born. The names that came to mind were not necessarily the names who were going to be in it, but it was just two faces. It was Carly Simon and James Taylor, and Warner Brothers picked this up right away because they had a lot of music, so they got the idea. They had Warner Brothers music. So it was very easy to set up a contract, and Warner Brothers set up so we could do the research. We went out on tour with bands that summer and then wrote the screenplay, which we had a lot of fun doing because it was totally research. It was fun. You'd find yourself in Johnstown, Pennsylvania, on a summer night with a really bad English metal band -- you know, I mean just hopeless -- and being really thrilled.

Then it got to be heavy weather on that picture because the question of casting came up, and it turned out to be a lot of other personalities involved.

As writers, you don't have that much control in movies.

Joan Didion: You don't on a movie, no. Never.

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