Thursday, March 14, 2024

A Review of "The World According to Joan Didion" by Evelyn McDonnell


You know you’re in great authorial hands when on page two of this book Evelyn McDonnell insists about her subject Joan Didion, “Narrative was her expertise and her enemy.” Not just a great insight, that line connects the dots between these two powerful women. McDonnell skillfully offers all the lessons she’s learned from years of reading, considering, and teaching (currently journalism at Loyola Marymount University) Didion. So both can wield a rapier thrust of a declarative, quick last sentence of a paragraph. For as McDonnell closes one graph, “For Didion, words were earned, not spent.” Indeed. 

 McDonnell, editor of Women Who Rock: Bessie to Beyoncé, Girl Groups to Riot Grrrl, is not attempting biography with The World According to Joan Didion, or even a literary biography, but something more attuned to her fascinating subject. It’s an examination of where Didion met the world on the page, read through a series of Didion totems that function as chapter titles, such as Gold, Notebook, Stingray, Jogger, Morgue, Orchid. For what better way to honor Didion than with a collection of essays?

Care to read the rest then so at the California Review of Books.

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