Let Me Tell You What I Mean

NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER – From one of our most iconic and influential writers, the award-winning author of The Year of Magical Thinking a timeless collection that reveals what would become Joan Didion’s subjects, including the press, politics, California robber barons, women, and her own self-doubt.

Didion’s remarkable, five decades-long career as a journalist, essayist, novelist, and screen writer has earned her a prominent place in the American literary canon, and the twelve early pieces collected here underscore her singularity.–O Magazine

With a forward by Hilton Als, these pieces from 1968 to 2000, never before gathered together, offer an illuminating glimpse into the mind and process of a legendary figure. They showcase Joan Didion’s incisive reporting, her empathetic gaze, and her role as an articulate witness to the most stubborn and intractable truths of our time ( The New York Times Book Review).

Here, Didion touches on topics ranging from newspapers (the problem is not so much whether one trusts the news as to whether one finds it), to the fantasy of San Simeon, to not getting into Stanford. In Why I Write, Didion ponders the act of writing: I write entirely to find out what I’m thinking, what I’m looking at, what I see and what it means. From her admiration for Hemingway’s sentences to her acknowledgment that Martha Stewart’s story is one that has historically encouraged women in this country, even as it has threatened men, these essays are acutely and brilliantly observed. Each piece is classic Didion: incisive, bemused, and stunningly prescient.

Joan Didion was born in Sacramento in 1934 and graduated from the University of California, Berkeley, in 1956. After graduation, Didion moved to New York and began working for Vogue, which led to her career as a journalist and writer. Didion published her first novel, Run River, in 1963. Didion’s other novels include A Book of Common Prayer (1977), Democracy (1984), and The Last Thing He Wanted (1996).

Didion’s first volume of essays, Slouching Towards Bethlehem, was published in 1968, and her second, The White Album, was published in 1979. Her nonfiction works include Salvador (1983), Miami(1987), After Henry (1992), Political Fictions (2001), Where I Was From (2003), We Tell Ourselves Stories in Order to Live (2006), Blue Nights (2011), South and West (2017) and Let Me Tell You What I Mean (2021). Her memoir The Year of Magical Thinking won the National Book Award for Nonfiction in 2005.

In 2005, Didion was awarded the American Academy of Arts & Letters Gold Medal in Criticism and Belles Letters. In 2007, she was awarded the National Book Foundation’s Medal for Distinguished Contribution to American Letters. A portion of National Book Foundation citation read: An incisive observer of American politics and culture for more than forty-five years, Didion’s distinctive blend of spare, elegant prose and fierce intelligence has earned her books a place in the canon of American literature as well as the admiration of generations of writers and journalists.” In 2013, she was awarded a National Medal of Arts and Humanities by President Barack Obama, and the PEN Center USA’s Lifetime Achievement Award.

Didion said of her writing: I write entirely to find out what I’m thinking, what I’m looking at, what I see and what it means.” She died in December 2021.

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