Jul 11
The great Joan Didion has won a National Humanities Medal, and in the lead-up I interviewed her (and tried not to faint while sitting in her living room) for a bio-profile just out in Humanities Magazine. 
I promised myself I wouldn’t stay at her place more than 45 minutes. Even in that short time, she said many, many interesting things that didn’t fit in the allotted space. Some of my favorites:
She once told The Paris Review that none of her novels are particularly autobiographical. I mentioned this, and she said The Last Thing He Wanted, her last novel, was an exception.I wondered whether she found quasi-autobiographical fiction more difficult to write than other kinds. She said she did. “Why is it so much harder?” I asked her. “I don’t know,” she said, “but it is.” The Last Thing He Wanted was “depressing to write.”
She’s written about clothing and linens and furniture, about her mother’s and grandmother’s influence on her tastes. I asked if she saw a relationship between her aesthetics in writing and her aesthetics in the rest of the world. Did they seem related or like two different spheres? “No, they don’t seem like different spheres,” she said. “I have a hard time thinking about it now but I spent a huge amount of my childhood and adult life finding a way to incorporate my family’s ideas into my own…. It seems to me everything you write is so wrapped up in everything you’ve been told and everything you do that it’s hard to separate it.”
I asked why people don’t tend to notice that her work is funny. “People have absolutely no sense of humor at all,” she said.

The great Joan Didion has won a National Humanities Medal, and in the lead-up I interviewed her (and tried not to faint while sitting in her living room) for a bio-profile just out in Humanities Magazine

I promised myself I wouldn’t stay at her place more than 45 minutes. Even in that short time, she said many, many interesting things that didn’t fit in the allotted space. Some of my favorites:

  • She once told The Paris Review that none of her novels are particularly autobiographical. I mentioned this, and she said The Last Thing He Wanted, her last novel, was an exception.I wondered whether she found quasi-autobiographical fiction more difficult to write than other kinds. She said she did. “Why is it so much harder?” I asked her. “I don’t know,” she said, “but it is.” The Last Thing He Wanted was “depressing to write.”
  • She’s written about clothing and linens and furniture, about her mother’s and grandmother’s influence on her tastes. I asked if she saw a relationship between her aesthetics in writing and her aesthetics in the rest of the world. Did they seem related or like two different spheres? “No, they don’t seem like different spheres,” she said. “I have a hard time thinking about it now but I spent a huge amount of my childhood and adult life finding a way to incorporate my family’s ideas into my own…. It seems to me everything you write is so wrapped up in everything you’ve been told and everything you do that it’s hard to separate it.”
  • I asked why people don’t tend to notice that her work is funny. “People have absolutely no sense of humor at all,” she said.

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