Our pop culture expert on the lessons she’s learned from one of America’s greatest living writers
Bim Adewunmi Sat 16 Dec 2017 06.00 GMT
he glamour ofJoan Didion, 83, lies not in the many incredible photographs of her during her long life. Nor is it in that horrible quasi-sheen that we associate with surviving terrible loss. It’s not in the lifestyle choices she made – living in New York one year, relocating to a home right on a California beach another – and it’s not in the interactions she had with Hollywood royalty, fromWarren Beatty(who had a crush on her) toHarrison Ford(who worked as her carpenter for a time). It does not lie in the era-defining work she published in the 1960s and 70s, solo or co-written with husbandJohn Gregory Dunne. No, the glamour of Joan Didion is merely in her willingness to try things. Truly, there is nothing more luxe than that: the decision to dip your toe, your foot, your leg and eventually your enitre body into a new endeavour, and just do it.
In Joan Didion: The Centre Will Not Hold, a Netflix documentary produced and directed by Didion’s nephew, the actor Griffin Dunne – the writer is endlessly watchable. She is still a sure speaker, and her hands dance in front of her when she’s being emphatic. But it’s all the stories she pursued, the diversifying of her skill set, from magazines to screenplays, as well as the journey into motherhood: all those opportunities grabbed at, with both hands, that really seize you. It’s nice, and useful, when people believe in you, of course. But it helps if you’re already packed and waiting at the door when chances come knocking.
As we move towards a new year, the urge to take stock grows ever stronger; arbitrary end points will do that. So I look to an 83-year-old and remind myself of my 2018 mantra: just try.