Speed Reads

R.I.P.

Writer Joan Didion has died at 87

Legendary author and journalist Joan Didion, whose work included the National Book Award-winning memoir The Year of Magical Thinking, has died. She was 87. 

Didion's death was reported Thursday by The New York Times and confirmed in a statement from her publisher, Knopf. The publisher said she died in her New York home due to complications from Parkinson's disease. 

"Didion was one of the country's most trenchant writers and astute observers," the publisher said. 

Didion was born in 1934, and she went to work at Vogue after she won an essay contest. She became an associate features editor for the magazine, and throughout her career, she wrote for VogueLifeThe New York Review of Books, and more. In 1963, she published her first novel, Run, River, and she went on to write fiction books including A Book of Common Prayer and The Last Thing He Wanted and nonfiction books like The Year of Magical Thinking, which she authored in the aftermath of the death of her husband John Gregory Dunne. Didion and Dunne's daughter died in 2005. 

Didion also wrote a number of screenplays, including for the 1976 version of A Star Is Born, and her essays were published in collections like 1968's Slouching Towards Bethlehem

"She was fearless, original, and a marvelous observer," former The New York Review of Books editor Robert B. Silvers told the Times. "She was very skeptical of the conventional view and brilliant at finding the person or situation that was telling about the broader picture. She was a great reporter." 

Former President Barack Obama awarded Didion a National Medal of Arts and Humanities in 2013, saying at the time she "rightly has earned the distinction as one of the most celebrated American writers of her generation" and "one of our sharpest and most respected observers of American politics and culture." Obama added, "I'm surprised she hadn't already gotten this award."