Julian Wasser (born 1943)
Gelatin silver print, 1970
As a journalist, novelist, essayist, and screenwriter, Joan Didion has been one of the key chroniclers of American life since 1965. A co-creator of New Journalism with Norman Mailer and Tom Wolfe, she became an instant role model for California women in the 1960s. Petite and yet powerfully demure, Didion displays a self-possession that belies her size: “My only advantage as a reporter is that I am so physically small, so temperamentally unobtrusive, that people tend to forget my presence runs counter to their best interests.” Her prose is sparse and precise, as if “sculpted from dry ice,” the author Michael Cunningham once said, and her style is indebted to the California noir tradition of Raymond Chandler. Her essay collections capture the essence of decades: Slouching towards Bethlehem (1968), The White Album (1979), Miami (1987), and Political Fictions (2001).