The World According to Joan Didion

HarperOne. Sept. 2023. 256p. ISBN 9780063289079. $26.99. BIOG
This book is both a paean to the distinguished author Joan Didion and an account of McDonnell’s (journalism, Loyola Marymount Univ.; Women Who Rock) encounters with Didion’s texts and the legend. Didion looms large for McDonnell, who finds the ways in which her own writerly concerns line up with Didion’s. The book portrays Didion as a “writer’s writer,” a literary craftsperson envied for fresh, effective presentations on every subject she undertook. Didion also spent considerable energy fashioning herself as a cultural icon. McDonnell conducted substantial immersive research for this literary project. For example, the chapter “Hotel” describes Didion’s fondness for a specific hotel in Honolulu, and McDonnell stays briefly in the same hotel as a way of connecting with her literary hero. The author reveals more about herself as a fan than she provides new material about Didion’s life, but readers can get those details in Tracy Daugherty’s biography The Last Love Song.
VERDICT McDonnell’s starstruck approach to Didion enlivens other well-detailed accounts about her work and life. Best for literary biography sections.
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