Pieces on Joan Didion have sprung up like wild flowers in the past week or so and since the publication of The Year of Magical Thinking. The best of them so far is from John Leonard at The New York Review of Books.
It’s not just that the momentum she worries so much about has taken Didion in surprising directions. It’s that we should not perhaps have been surprised. How lazy to have labeled her the poster girl for anomie, wearing a migraine and a bikini to every volcanic eruption of the postwar zeitgeist; a desert lioness of the style pages, part sibylline icon and part Stanford seismograph, alert on the fault lines of the culture to every tremble of tectonic fashion plate. Yes, the Sixties seemed so much to hurt her feelings that her prose at times suggested Valéry’s frémissements d’une feuille effacée— shiverings of an effaced leaf—as if her next trick might be evaporation.