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Joan: Forty Years of Life, Loss, and Friendship with Joan Didion (Kindle Single) [Kindle Edition]

Sara Davidson
4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (46 customer reviews)

Kindle Price: $2.99

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Book Description

Before the full catastrophe of life struck her broadsides, the writer Joan Didion led a shining, privileged life. She was one of the most admired American writers, reporting in novels and literary journalism from the center of the national story. Her beloved husband, John Gregory Dunne, a highly-regarded writer himself, was her most trusted confidante and collaborator. An already inseparable couple, they looked forward to spending even more time together as they grew older. Their only child, Quintana, had negotiated the rapids of adolescence and was now grown up and married.

Then, famously, disaster struck. Within less than two years, her husband and daughter were dead. At seventy, Didion found herself alone. Her flinty self-reliance faced its stiffest test. Would her old pioneer code of “bury the baby and keep going” be sufficient? There to witness how Didion found her way was the writer Sara Davidson, the author of the best-selling Loose Change. She and Didion met in 1971 when Davidson, then a young reporter, phoned her idol, looking for wisdom on how to live as a woman and a writer. Didion invited her to supper, and so began a friendship that has lasted forty years.

It’s a friendship with its share of amusing moments. At a Hollywood party, Davidson witnessed Didion reject an overture from Warren Beatty, then at the height of his womanizing powers. “This is all I want, right here,” he told Didion, staring into her eyes. “I don’t have to be on the set until ten Monday morning.” “This is not…feasible,” Didion responded, smiling shyly.

Over the years, Didion and Davidson compared notes on marriage, men, parenthood, and careers. But most of all, they talked about writing, with Didion sharing more than four decades worth of insights acquired as far back as Slouching Towards Bethlehem (1968) and as recently as Didion’s newest work, Blue Nights (2011).

Joan is a loving, intimate portrait of a deeply private writer. It is a treasure trove of Didion’s no-nonsense wisdom about the art of literature and life, and about the power of endurance—and now, surrender. Although Didion says she has gotten no wiser with age, Joan belies that.

Editorial Reviews Review

Sara Davidson's charming and insightful Kindle Single, Joan, chronicles her 40+-year friendship with literary luminary Joan Didion. A fifth generation native of California, Didion was "raised to embody the qualities inherent in the Western code: self-reliance, optimism, not complaining... She believed absolutely in her ability to overcome any obstacle." However, Davidson noticed that her friend's observance of "the code" changed somewhat, as did her approach to writing, after twin tragedies struck: Didion's daughter suffered a series of illnesses that left her in a coma (she later passed away from acute pancreatitis), and while tending to her, Didion's beloved husband, fellow writer John Gregory Dunne, died of a heart attack. Davidson recounts a conversation with Didion where she observes that people who have suffered the loss of a loved one all look the same: "Exposed, like they ought to be wearing dark glasses, not because they've been crying but because they look too open to the world." The dark glasses were ever present when I met Joan Didion at a book signing in May of 2011. She was gracious but elusive, and I left wondering about the woman behind this mask. Davidson's Joan gives an illuminating peek, and whether or not you're a fan of Joan Didion the writer, this Kindle Single will have you marveling at the extraordinariness of Joan Didion, the person. --Erin Kodicek

Product Details

  • File Size: 402 KB
  • Print Length: 45 pages
  • Publisher: Byliner Inc. (October 21, 2011)
  • Sold by: Amazon Digital Services, Inc.
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B005YF5RZO
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Lending: Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #60,297 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
15 of 16 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars This piece really resonated for me October 30, 2011
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
I found so many great incites in these wonderful conversations between Joan Didion and Sara Davidson. Joan's thoughts on her long and successful marriage, the confidence it takes to be a writer (and a woman), how she deals with devastating loss, the letting go of control as one ages are all resonant for me. Her relationship with Sara Davidson is so intimate, and Sara's writing so effortless, that I feel like I'm sitting with my wisest and closest friends talking about the things that matter most.
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12 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Gem Of A Book November 4, 2011
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
Wow. A simply superb book. It's short and sweet and sad and sagacious and searing and sometimes soaring - sooooo much in so few words in JOAN. Sara's intense, vintage friendship with Joan gives this book jump-off-the-page realism. As compelling as real and relatable to as anything you might read. As I read it, it started cruising in my bloodstream and lifting my psyche. So much honesty and heart-based, precise delineation of universal challenges. Joan Didion comes alive for us and Sara's crucial place in that life makes JOAN a truly multi-dimensional piece. Warts and all, but wisdom and all wrapped around every sentence. For instance: many of us born-in-the-nineteen-forties people get creased so often by the aging situation and constantly fighting off the vacuum of atheism and lack of faith, even if you believe in God, meditate, do yoga, eat right...Sara's quiet yet potent insights into Joan's real life version of all of this actually shifted some of my own nervousness or fear or general neurosis when I was reading JOAN. As always, Sara Davison grabs your interest immediately. First sentence. every time. And thereafter, somehow, without any high falutin embellishment or exegesis, something crucial jumped off my Kindle screen. Nailed: bourgeois expectations in life; artistic torture; spiritual vicissitudes; fame and contrasting quotidian struggles; marriage, steady love; brilliance and deep inner doubting; rugged individualism and its ultimate breakdown; the impossibility of loving loss...I could go on and on. The whole freakin book is a Zen perfection.
Truly love this piece. Sarah mines so far into recognizable consciousness, and then regularly helps the reader fly above the agonies of life as we all know it.
It's a massive artistic triumph to write what is ostensibly unpretentious (even though it concerns an undeniable luminary) and emerge with profound, helpful, BIG perceptions.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A poignant look into a great writer's mind/heart October 27, 2011
Format:Kindle Edition
I've been a Joan Didion fan since college when Slouching Towards Bethlehem was required reading. This look however, goes somewhere new - into a meaningful friendship exposed and another dimension of Didion. It's so personal and so revealing and reminds us just how valuable these deep friendships are, how they are life-savers, relief-givers and a way to pass time in our lives with continuity and grace. Wonderful read. Buy it and send it to your best friend.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Loved It December 21, 2011
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
Thoroughly interesting and enjoyable portrait of Davidson's friendship with the great author. It's honest and intimate and kept me turning pages all night. I found the Warren Beatty ("not feasible") episode particularly amusing. This is probably the best Kindle short I've read all year. Highly recommend.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Yes: JOAN is a gem. December 1, 2011
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
Let me add another to the perfect "5 star" reviews thus far...

Firstly, having the opportunity to read intelligent pieces by established authors of note - at the length they're intended - at a reasonable cost - upon demand - is quite remarkable. Who woulda thunk it??? One can only imagine what is to come in this new medium.

More importantly, I felt privileged beyond measure to bear witness to Ms. Didion's searing transformation from self-sufficiency to surrender, wrought from the heart-breaking circumstances of her most recent years. Ms. Davidson's pitch-perfect prose, deep knowing of the human heart and journalistic talent for detail and dialogue give "a fly on the wall" quality to the telling of this mighty intimacy between two powerful, literate, no-holds-barred women.

To Ms. Didion: thank you for allowing us to be touched and humbled by your story.
To Ms. Davidson: thank you for telling it as no one else could.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Backstage Pass to Didion's World November 25, 2011
Format:Kindle Edition
Writers get to control what they write, but they don't have that same luxury when another writer writes about them. This beautiful work by Sara Davidson gives us the kind of backstage pass into Didion's world that -- even with Didion's confessional works -- we would not be able to access otherwise. Davidson obviously had the material to write this because she was friends with Didion for so many years, and she makes the most of this privileged seat. "Joan" proffers a thoughtful prism to view how Didion has grown and changed -- in ways that even Didion herself might not understand. Davidson's long presence on the literary scene shines through here, offering a lovely plate of insight, understanding, and tenderness to help readers enjoy and dig deeper into Didion's life and work.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Couldn't Be Better November 19, 2011
Format:Kindle Edition
Truly reads like a memoir of a close friendship. Davidson does not impose her opinions or make this about herself. Instead she truly lets Joan be Joan. Better than the plethora of interviews that have accompanied the publication of Blue Nights.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Beautiful November 17, 2011
Format:Kindle Edition
Sara Davidson has created something wonderful! Most engagingly, she has shown us who Joan was, and whom she has become, through the lens of their long and satisfying relationship. I learned a great deal about both women, as well as some important things about the writer's process. The work is nuanced and honest. I wish there were more stories out there about how women help each other through life.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Joan Didion
Although this is a short read, it is extremely moving. Literary journalist Sara Davidson discusses her long friendship with author Joan Didion. Read more
Published 1 month ago by S Riaz
5.0 out of 5 stars Well written book!
I enjoyed the story it was very well written, I take a long time to read a book normally but that book I finished in 2 days!!
Published 3 months ago by Michele Clough
3.0 out of 5 stars More About Joan Didion
A fair biography of the writer, but it doesn't quite convey the depth of feeling that is obtained from actual reading of Didion's books--The Year of Magical Thinking and Blue... Read more
Published 3 months ago by Carmen Kagal
2.0 out of 5 stars lazy writing...
and then misattribution of forster's "only connect". This longish essay felt like a collection of half-remembered anecdotes and careless reporting. Read more
Published 7 months ago by Ashley Kendall
3.0 out of 5 stars Acceptance of what is
Joan seems to deal with the good and bad with fortitude and strength as well as acceptance for all that is.
Published 10 months ago by Cathy
4.0 out of 5 stars A very good read.
Interesting insights and behind-the-scenes look at a fascinating person. Well written with a lot of empathy and love, a story of true friendship.
Published 14 months ago by Ingo Hoffren
5.0 out of 5 stars Melancholy
This was an excellent look into the current life/circumstances of an amazing woman of letters, and a commentator of our times. Read more
Published 14 months ago by Gentle Reader
5.0 out of 5 stars quite the story
Love the inside view of Joan Didion. It is a remarkable life that she has in every aspect. Good recollections
Published 14 months ago by Elizabeth D. Retallack
5.0 out of 5 stars Wonderful read!
"Joan: Forty Years of Life, Loss and Friendship with Joan Didion."Great book, great story, wonderfully written by Sara Davidson who knew Joan so well.
Published 15 months ago by cadobie
5.0 out of 5 stars Joan as you have not seen her
I have been in love with Joan Didion for many years- and probably it started with Slouching Toward Bethlehem and her wonderful essay On Self Respect. I know I am not alone. Read more
Published 16 months ago by G. E. Melone
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More About the Author

Welcome! If you'd like to read an excerpt from The December Project, please visit my website, If you pre-order the book, you'll get a bonus--a free recording we produced of Reb Zalman singing,talking with me,and leading a meditation on letting go. You can start enjoying it right away, before the book arrives.

Now for the BIO:

Sara Davidson first captured America's imagination with her international best seller, "Loose Change," about three women growing up in the Sixties.

Sara grew up in California and went to Berkeley in the Sixties, where the rite of passage was to "get stoned, get laid and get arrested."

After Berkeley she headed for New York to attend the Columbia Graduate School of Journalism. Her first job was with the Boston Globe, where she became a national correspondent, covering everything from the election campaigns of Bobby Kennedy and Richard Nixon to the Woodstock Festival and the student strike at Columbia.

Returning to New York, she worked as a free-lance journalist for magazines ranging from Harpers, Esquire and the New York Times to Rolling Stone. She was one of the group who developed the craft of literary journalism, combining the techniques of fiction with rigorous reporting to bring real events and people to life. Her work is collected in the textbook, "The Literary Journalists," by Norman Sims.

Sara moved back to California where for 25 years, she alternated between writing for television and writing books. The books tend to fall in the gray zone between memoir and fiction. She uses the voice of the intimate journalist, drawing on material from her life and that of others and shaping it into a narrative that reads like fiction.

In television, she created two drama series, "Jack and Mike," and "Heart Beat," which ran on A.B.C. She was later co-executive producer of "Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman," wrote hundreds of hours of drama episodes, movies and miniseries, and in 1994 was nominated for a Golden Globe.

In the year 2000, her life began to unravel. She was divorced, her children were leaving for college and she couldn't find work in television. Following her intuition, knowing nobody, she drove to Boulder, Colorado for three months to be a visiting writer at the University of Colorado. She never drove back, and has pieced together a different life which she writes about in Leap!

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