• Kaye Curren

The Words of Didion

Joan Didion has been an influence on my thinking since I began putting words to paper fifty years ago. In a sense, we have grown up together. As a Southern California native, I relate to her words about my home town – to the point of strong emotional reactions to her words in “The Los Angeles Notebook.” They reminded me that I had been transplanted, and I still deeply long to return to palm trees and even the Santa Ana winds.

I also remember that the day I read Slouching Towards Bethlehem at 25, I realized the bar for literary nonfiction was considerably higher than I had previously thought. I’ve been trying to channel Joan Didion ever since, with limited success. When I feel I’ve missed her in my writing, I grab one of her books and soak it up. My thought is if you can’t match it, join it.

Here are a few of Joan’s famous words on writing and California:

Joan on Writing

“I write entirely to find out what I’m thinking, what I’m looking at, what I see and what it means. What I want and what I fear.”

“My only advantage as a reporter is that I am so physically small, so temperamentally unobtrustive, and so neurotically inarticulate, that people tend to forget that my presence runs counter to their best interests. And it always does. That is one last thing to remember: writers are always selling somebody out.”

“As it happens I am still committed to the idea that the ability to think for one’s self depends upon one’s mastery of the language,….

Joan on California

“California is a place in which a boom mentality and a sense of Chekhovian loss meet in uneasy suspension; in which the mind is troubled by some buried but ineradicable suspicion that things better work here, because here, beneath the immense bleached sky, is where we run out of continent.”

“It kills me when people talk about California hedonism. Anybody who talks about California hedonism has never spent a Christmas in Sacramento.”

“The future always looks good in the golden land, because no one remembers the past.”


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