The year of magical thinking

Joan Didion deserves better 

This book is an example of a regrettable new trend – the solipsistic biography. I mean lives of famous people written by unfamous people (usually women) who want to tell you a LOT about themselves. This one is about the writer Joan Didion by an academic called Evelyn McDonnell who never met Didion but believes that they had much in common. Here is her evidence. ‘She was born within one year of my mother; I was born within two years of her daughter. We are both native daughters of California. We lived in New York at the same time, though she was an Upper East Side celebrity and I was

Joan Didion’s needle-sharp eye never fails

Most collections of journalism are bad. There are two reasons for this: one is that they are usually incoherent and the other is that they are, perversely, far too coherent. The pieces are pulled from their original contexts — newspapers, magazines — and thrown together with others they have no relation to beyond a common author. But (the too-coherent problem) most authors only have one or maybe two ideas to work through, so you end up doing the intellectual equivalent of walking a dozen rounds of the garden when you had hoped to be hiking off into a grand new landscape. I don’t know what Joan Didion’s one or maybe