Joan Didion, who died last December, took herself extremely seriously. American writers tend to do that, especially those whose books are unreadable, the kind who win prizes and get reviewed by the Bagel Times. Pretension aside, however, Didion was a hell of a writer, a stylist who modelled her prose on Papa Hemingway’s. We never met, but I knew enough to stay away because of a joke I played on her.
Didion was godmother to David Mortimer’s and Shelley Wanger’s daughter, a young lady I have never met. Shelley is an editor at Knopf, and is the daughter of that beautiful and elegant actress of the 1940s Joan Bennett. David Mortimer is a scion of a grand old American family. I have always known them and like them, hence the joke.