Joan Didion, the Author Hollywood Fears:

Play it As it Lays, Harvey Weinstein, and False Progressive Values

Joan Didion in San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park during the writing of her article “Slouching Towards Bethlehem” in April 1967.

“Most of our platitudes notwithstanding, self-deception remains the most difficult deception. The charms that work on others count for nothing in that devastatingly well-lit back alley where one keeps assignations with oneself: no winning smiles will do here, no prettily drawn lists of good intentions.”

Joan Didion told the truth. In the 1960s, women in Hollywood were supposed to comply, but she commented on women’s relationship with subservience through her work. Nearly half a century before today’s rising public outcries against Hollywood’s masculine whiteness, Didion addressed the issue.

Play It as It Lays is a 1970 novel by the American writer Joan Didion. Time magazine included the novel in its “TIME 100 Best English-language Novels from 1923 to 2005”.About the book, Joan Didion said, “I didn’t think it was going to make it […] And suddenly it did make it, in a minor way. And from that time on I had more confidence.”The book was made into a 1972 movie starring Tuesday Weld as Maria and Anthony Perkins as BZ. Didion co-wrote the screenplay with her husband, John Gregory Dunne.
Joan Didion was born on December 5, 1934, in Sacramento, California, to Frank Reese and Eduene (née Jerrett) Didion. Didion recalls writing things down as early as the age of five, though she says she never saw herself as a writer until after her work had been published.
Illustration by The New York Times; photographs by Anna Watts and Sarah Blesener for The New York Times, Stephen Yang/Reuters, Mark Lennihan/Associated Press, Mary Altaffer/Associated Press.
In 1956, Didion received a Bachelor of Arts degree in English from the University of California, Berkeley. During her senior year, she won first place in the “Prix de Paris” essay contest sponsored by Vogue, and was awarded a job as a research assistant at the magazine, having written a story on the San Francisco architect William Wilson Wurster.
Didion’s early education did not follow the traditional format. Didion attended kindergarten and first grade, but because her father was in the Army Air Corps during World War II and her family was constantly relocated, she did not attend school on a regular basis. In 1943 or early 1944, her family returned to Sacramento, and her father went to Detroit to negotiate defense contracts for World War II. Didion wrote in her 2003 memoir Where I Was From that moving so often made her feel like a perpetual outsider.
Joan Didion and John Gregory Dunne, in 1972. While in New York and working at Vogue, Didion met John Gregory Dunne, her future husband, who was writing for Time magazine. He was the younger brother of the author, businessman and television mystery show host Dominick Dunne. The couple married in 1964 and moved to Los Angeles with intentions of staying only temporarily, but California ultimately became their home for the next twenty years. Their daughter Quintana Roo Dunne was adopted in 1966.
Didion views the structure of the sentence as essential to what she is conveying in her work. In the New York Times article “Why I Write” (1976), Didion remarks, “To shift the structure of a sentence alters the meaning of that sentence, as definitely and inflexibly as the position of a camera alters the meaning of the object photographed… The arrangement of the words matters, and the arrangement you want can be found in the picture in your mind…The picture tells you how to arrange the words and the arrangement of the words tells you, or tells me, what’s going on in the picture.”

“I like Maria a lot. Maria was very strong, very tough. The only thing Maria and I have in common is an occasional inflection, which I picked up from her — not vice versa.” — Didion

It is a Hollywood book, not just because it’s about Hollywood people, but because it’s a book that’s also a film with Didion as the lead.

In 2009, Didion was awarded an honorary Doctor of Letters degree by Harvard University. Yale University conferred another honorary Doctor of Letters degree upon her in 2011. On July 3, 2013, the White House announced Didion as one of the recipients of the National Medal of Arts, to be presented by President Barack Obama.

“The dismal fact is that self-respect has nothing to do with others’ approval — who are, after all, deceived easily enough; has nothing to do with reputation — which, as Rhett Butler told Scarlett O’Hara, is something that people with courage can do without.

An author who writes for his future children’s eyes. “Every time we do our best, the world changes just a little” - wise man

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