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What if you hadn’t been home

Mary-Kay Wilmers: Joan Didion

3 November 2011
Blue Nights 
by Joan Didion.
Fourth Estate, 188 pp., £14.99, November 2011, 978 0 00 743289 9
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... This is how it begins: July 26 2010. Today would be her wedding anniversary. Joan Didion’s daughter, Quintana Roo, was married at the Cathedral of St John the Divine on Amsterdam Avenue in New York in 2003. Dates are important. In a writer as fastidious as Didion they carry a lot of weight. Detail matters too, sometimes more than the main thing, or ...

His Shoes

Michael Wood: Joan Didion

5 January 2006
The Year of Magical Thinking 
by Joan Didion.
Fourth Estate, 227 pp., £12.99, October 2005, 9780007216840
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... too hard at being realistic, our love will become not just dead but too dead. There is a difference between being a memory and being only a memory. On 30 December 2003, Joan Didion and her husband, JohnGregoryDunne, sat down to dinner in their apartment in New York. They had been married for forty years. They had had their fights, they had thought about divorce, but there they were. ‘Marriage is ...
22 June 2000
The Way We Lived Then: Recollections of a Well-Known Name Dropper 
by Dominick Dunne.
Crown, 218 pp., £17.99, October 1999, 0 609 60388 4
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Gary Cooper Off Camera: A Daughter Remembers 
by Maria Cooper Janis.
Abrams, 176 pp., £22, November 1999, 0 8109 4130 9
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... There came a time in the middle and late 1970s when Dominick Dunne knew he was washed up. For most of his life he had been trying to get into Hollywood by acting as more than he was. Or without pausing to ask what he was. As a stage manager for NBC TV he’d been ...

Passion

Anita Brookner

7 October 1982
The President’s Child 
by Fay Weldon.
Hodder, 220 pp., £6.95, September 1982, 0 340 24564 6
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Silence among the Weapons 
by John​ Arden.
Methuen, 343 pp., £7.95, August 1982, 0 413 49670 8
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The Facilitators, or Mister Hole-in-the-Day 
by Peter Redgrove.
Routledge, 173 pp., £6.95, September 1982, 0 7100 9214 8
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Pleasure City 
by Kamala Markandaya.
Chatto, 341 pp., £7.95, September 1982, 0 7011 2617 5
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Worldly Goods 
by Michael Korda.
Bodley Head, 347 pp., £7.95, September 1982, 0 370 30932 4
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Dutch Shea Jr 
by John Gregory Dunne.
Weidenfeld, 352 pp., £7.50, September 1982, 0 297 78164 2
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... to be available. Perhaps duty is inescapable. Perhaps even God exists. The moral burden is resumed with some dignity and is used to structure an already excellent fiction. Silence among the Weapons, John Arden’s first novel, deals with the mysterious and violent contortions which led up to the disintegration of the Roman Republic in the first century BC. The leading characters are Marius, Sulla ...

It was gold

Patricia Lockwood: Joan Didion’s Pointillism

4 January 2018
Joan Didion: The Centre Will Not Hold 
directed by Griffin Dunne.
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South and West: From a Notebook 
by Joan Didion.
Fourth Estate, 160 pp., £10, September 2017, 978 0 00 825717 0
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... saying, standing in the corner of every piece, holding her yellow legal pad and watching, is: ‘I was there.’ The Centre Will Not Hold, the new Netflix documentary directed by her nephew Griffin Dunne, lacks the three-in-the-morning question. It begins with a bridge and a blur, close-ups of bare feet and fresh typewriter ink. A rat crawls over a hippie, to show that in the Swinging Sixties ...

What does a snake know, or intend?

David Thomson: Where Joan Didion was from

18 March 2004
Where I Was From 
by Joan Didion.
Flamingo, 240 pp., £14.99, March 2004, 0 00 717886 7
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... of beds (because every night they got unmade). She was not even house-proud. She left the house undusted – and dust in Sacramento would be like a plague or a curse – so that Joan’s new husband, JohnGregoryDunne, when he came to visit, would use a mischievous finger to write ‘DUST’ here and there. Dunne, who died at the end of last year, was tall, handsome, articulate, funny – the man of ...

Gaelic Gloom

Colm Tóibín: Brian Moore

10 August 2000
Brian Moore: The Chameleon Novelist 
by Denis Sampson.
Marino, 344 pp., IR£20, October 1998, 1 86023 078 4
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... then, that the three finest novels to appear in Ireland between the mid-1950s and mid-1960s were about middle-aged women suffering. They were Moore’s The Lonely Passion of Judith Hearne (1955), John McGahern’s The Barracks (1961) and Aidan Higgins’s Langrishe, Go Down (1966). It is no coincidence, either, that the best novels about men in the period after independence dealt with figures in ...

Who do you think you are?

Jacqueline Rose: Trans Narratives

4 May 2016
... Indeed it may have been the draw. In the small-town rural America where Teena lived, male crime passed effortlessly down the generations. ‘You keep seeing the same faces,’ Judge Robert Finn told JohnGregoryDunne, who wrote about the case in 1997. ‘I’m into third-generation domestic abuse and restraining orders.’ He was talking about husbands and lovers whose fathers and grandfathers had ...

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