July 23, 2012 |
Thanks to the miracle of DVR, my wife Rae and I spent the other night watching “Double Indemnity,” a film we hadn't seen in years. Directed by Billy Wilder, with a script by Wilder and Raymond Chandler and based on a novel by James M. Cain, it is a movie with an almost perfect noir pedigree. More than this, though, it is a classic story, one that speaks to both its moment (the book was written in the 1930s) and to ours. As Joan Didion writes in her essay “Some Dreamers of the Golden Dream” : “This is the country in which a belief in the literal interpretation of Genesis has slipped imperceptibly into a belief in the literal interpretation of 'Double Indemnity.'" That's a great line, vintage Didion, and it highlights what she does so often in her writing: to stretch the particular until it seems universal, as well.
March 18, 2012 |
The Guardians: An Elegy Sarah Manguso Farrar, Straus and Giroux: 128 pp., $20 For more than a year, I've been on a reader's grief patrol. Memoir about a mother dying of cancer? Story of a husband's stroke? Taking care of a declining relative on a remote barren coast? Yes, yes, yes, all those and more. I try to swear them off, but I'm still drawn to these books. They are to me a form of secular reckoning; the faithful have their way of facing the big questions of life and death and sorrow.
November 16, 2011
MUSIC Vince Gill The singer, songwriter, producer and multi-instrumentalist has multiple studio albums on his resume, not to mention 20 Grammys and 18 CMA Awards. Catch a display of his high, lonesome tenor voice and soul-country guitar licks during his current U.S. tour, featuring material from his latest long-player, "Guitar Slinger. " Troubadour, 9081 Santa Monica Blvd., West Hollywood. 8 p.m. $29.99. (310) 276-6168. http://www.troubadour.com . ART Modern Art in Los Angeles: Assemblage and Politics Los Angeles artists Ed Bereal, Mel Edwards, George Herms, Nancy Reddin Kienholz and Betye Saar, who used the medium of assemblage to comment on the political climate of postwar America, will discuss the connection between art and social critique.
October 30, 2011 |
"Writers," Joan Didion observed in 1968, "are always selling somebody out. " It's one of those classic Didion statements, epigrammatic yet personal, a line that unpacks itself the more we consider what it implies. Didion may have been referring to journalism when she wrote that in the preface to "Slouching Towards Bethlehem," but she was also, as directly as can be imagined, addressing herself. "My only advantage as a reporter is that I am so physically small, so temperamentally unobtrusive, and so neurotically inarticulate that people tend to forget that my presence runs counter to their best interests.
March 22, 2009 |
In a 1979 New York Review of Books essay on Woody Allen, Joan Didion singles out a scene at the end of the film "Manhattan" in which Allen's character devises a list of "reasons to stay alive": It includes the second movement of Mozart's "Jupiter" Symphony, Groucho Marx and "A Sentimental Education."
December 29, 2008 |
Five days after her adult daughter was placed in a drug-induced coma in order to treat a raging infection, Joan Didion lost her husband. John Gregory Dunne, the writer with whom she had spent nearly every day of 39 years, died at the dinner table in the living room of their New York City apartment. It was Dec. 30, 2003: They hadn't even made it through Christmas week. The two events, almost back to back, were overwhelming. In the weeks and months after John's death, Didion knew she was sinking.
September 11, 2007 |
Joan Didion, the author and essayist whose 2005 memoir was titled "The Year of Magical Thinking," will receive an honorary National Book Award medal this fall for "distinguished contribution to American letters." Terry Gross, who has interviewed Didion and countless other authors as host of National Public Radio's "Fresh Air" program, won the Literarian Award for "outstanding service to the American literary community."
June 10, 2007 |
IF there's any doubt that we're living in a golden age of creative nonfiction, the nominations for this year's Tonys, which will be awarded tonight, should squelch it. Have there ever been more actors nominated for playing real-life characters? Glancing through the names of performers and parts, one could be forgiven for thinking that the Biography Channel had recently been hijacked by a squadron of Broadway all-stars.
March 30, 2007 |
No, that's not Joan Didion onstage recounting the harrowing period in which she suffered the back-to-back losses of her husband, writer John Gregory Dunne, and daughter, Quintana Roo Dunne Michael. That's Vanessa Redgrave, the statuesque English actress who stands almost a foot taller than the iconic California-born author whose brilliantly idiosyncratic writing has provided one of the most reliable barometers of our sociopolitical weather since the late 1960s.
March 28, 2007 |
Joan Didion and Vanessa Redgrave could hardly be more different. Didion's a distinctly American writer, as soft-spoken as she is small. "Let's face it," she says, "everybody's taller than I am." Redgrave is a nearly 6-foot-tall British actress, as expressively forceful as she is physically imposing. And yet when Didion's memoir "The Year of Magical Thinking" is turned into a one-woman Broadway play, Redgrave will depict Didion on stage. Or is Redgrave actually playing someone else?