“Grammar is a piano I play by ear,” she once wrote.If you want to check out a master essayist, read her work.One of Didion’s most quoted lines is, “We tell ourselves stories in order to live.” If you’re in need of a little reminder about why you write and what in the world you’re thinking trying to become an essayist or a poet, reading her work might just rekindle your passion.
“Grammar is a piano I play by ear,” she once wrote.
Her essay “Self-Respect: Its Source, Its Power,” from Slouching Toward Bethlehem, was first published in Vogue in 1961, and became a touchstone for women at the time.
Her novels Play It As It Lays, A Book of Common Prayer, Democracy, and The Last Thing He Wanted were, and still are, celebrated.
Within this essay, and in all of her work, the thing that holds the center is Didion herself.
As Evan Carton puts it in his analysis of , “Didion is not ‘at the center’ because she is…
What I want and what I fear.” She writes to live, and lives to write.
If you have that same passion, then keep on writing.In her years of writing, she has made herself an exemplary piece of the American discussion in every topic, from children on drugs to the question of morality in life and politics.For our representative piece, she focuses “On Self-Respect,” as the essay title would imply.In 1970 Lore Segal at The New York Times wrote, “A new novel by Joan Didion is something of an event.” Four decades later, the novels might not be new, but reading them still feels like an event.If, as Cheryl Strayed proclaimed a few months back, “Essayists who happen to be women are having a banner year,” then those essayists owe a lot to Joan Didion.Didion’s nephew Griffin Dunne is making a documentary about her life and work since, strangely, no one has made a film celebrating one of our greatest living writers.So to celebrate Didion’s 80th birthday, here are seven reasons that reading her work will change you — for the better, of course.I also know that if we are to live ourselves there comes a point at which we must relinquish the dead, let them go, keep them dead. Her essay “Self-Respect: Its Source, Its Power” was way ahead of its time in the early 1960s, back when women still weren’t allowed to get a credit card in their own name and Leave It to Beaver was still on the air. ” She wrote that for herself, but also for anyone else who might be dealing with loss. “Character — the willingness to accept responsibility for one's own life — is the source from which self-respect springs,” she wrote, and the words still ring true today — even though Leave It To Beaver is over and we can get our own credit cards, thank you very much. Spend more time alone.” If you’re ever feeling like you need to tweet about how life sucks or someone was mean to you that day, reread that quote. There aren’t many writers who hate books and recoil at the thought of reading an essay.A love of reading is part of the package, and Didion expresses her love of reading beautifully, in ways that other book nerds can understand.