Iconic journalist and author Joan Didion has died

Didion wrote about numerous topics in her career, including American counterculture in the '60s and musicians including Joan Baez and Janis Joplin

The American journalist and author Joan Didion died today (December 23) at the age of 87, it has been confirmed.

The writer’s cause of death has been confirmed as Parkinson’s disease in an email to the New York Times from Paul Bogaards, an executive at Knopf, Didion’s publisher. She died at her home in Manhattan.

Although Didion wrote several novels and screenplays over the course of her career, she is best known for her non-fiction work, including the 1968 essay collection Slouching Towards Bethlehem. That book included pieces on Joan Baez, Janis Joplin, and ‘60s counter-culture in the US, like the scene at the time in San Francisco’s Haight-Ashbury.

In 1979, she published The White Album – another collection of essays – which included the titular piece detailing Didion’s life in LA and experiences including attending a recording session by The Doors and meetings of the Black Panther Party, and her interactions with Charles Manson follower Linda Kasabian.

Didion was born in Sacramento, California in 1934 and began her career as a research assistant at Vogue after winning the Prix de Paris essay contest that was sponsored by the magazine. In the decades that followed, her writing appeared in publications including Life, Esquire, The New York Times and many more.

Joan Didion
Joan Didion CREDIT: Jemal Countess/Getty Images

She published her first book, a novel called Run, River, in 1963, followed by more fiction in the form of Play It As It Lays and A Book Of Common Prayer.  In 2005, Didion wrote about the death of her husband John Gregory Dunne and the year that followed his passing in The Year Of Magical Thinking. Six years later, she returned to the subject of grief, writing about the death of her daughter Quintana, who had died months before Dunne, in Blue Nights.

She released her latest book South And West: From A Notebook in 2017, as well as a collection of essays called Let Me Tell You What I Mean earlier this year.

Over the years, Didion also penned several screenplays, many with Dunne. Her first, The Panic In Needle Park, was based on the novel by James Mills and starred Al Pacino and Kitty Winn. The film, which was released in 1971, was nominated for the Palme d’Or at Cannes Film Festival.

She and Dunne also wrote the first A Star Is Born movie alongside its director Frank Pierson. It starred Barbra Streisand and Kris Kristofferson in the lead roles and won five Golden Globes, including Best Motion Picture – Musical or Comedy.

In 2017, her nephew Griffin Dunne produced a documentary about her titled The Center Will Not Hold, which streamed on Netflix and saw her discussing her career, approach to writing and personal life.

Didion received many awards and honours in her time, including the National Medal of Arts from then-President Barack Obama in 2013. Obama called her “one of our sharpest and most respected observers of American politics and culture”.

Tributes have begun to pour in online for the influential writer. “Fare thee well Joan Didion. Thank you for your brilliant mind and extraordinary prowess with a pen,” Garbage wrote on Twitter.

“joan didion and eve babitz going in the same week seems equal parts baffling and like twisted proof of balance in the universe,” Speedy Ortiz’s Sadie Dupuis wrote.

“RIP the incomparable Joan Didion. One of my favourite writers and a huge influence on the entirety of The Art of Losing. Fare thee well x,” added The Anchoress.

See more tributes below.

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