Joan Didion

Born: December 5, 1934

Occupation: Author

Quotes of Joan Didion

Joan Didion

We tell ourselves stories in order to live. We live entirely by the impression of a narrative line upon disparate images, the shifting phantasmagoria, which is our actual experience.

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Joan Didion

Another thing I need to do, when I'm near the end of the book, is sleep in the same room with it...Somehow the book doesn't leave you when you're asleep right next to it.

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Joan Didion

There was a level on which I believed that what had happened remained reversible

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Joan Didion

We forget all too soon the things we thought we could never forget. We forget the loves and the betrayals alike, forget what we whispered and what we screamed, forget who we were.

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Joan Didion

The ability to think for one's self depends upon one's mastery of the language.

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Joan Didion

The impulse to write things down is a peculiarly compulsive one, inexplicable to those who do not share it, useful only accidentally, only secondarily, in the way that any compulsion tries to justify itself....

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Joan Didion

I know why we try to keep the dead alive: we try to keep them alive in order to keep them with us. I also know that if we are to live ourselves there comes a point at which we must relinquish the dead,...

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Joan Didion

In the early years, you fight because you don't understand each other. In the later years, you fight because you do.

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Joan Didion

Throw yourself into the convulsions of the world. I'm not telling you to make the world better, because I don't believe progress is necessarily part of the package. I'm just telling you to live in it,...

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Joan Didion

Was there ever in anyone's life span a point free in time, devoid of memory, a night when choice was any more than the sum of all the choices gone before?

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Joan Didion

A young woman with long hair and a short white halter dress walks through the casino at the Riviera in Las Vegas at one in the morning. It was precisely this moment that made Play It As It Lays begin to...

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Joan Didion

The fancy that extraterrestrial life is by definition of a higher order than our own is one that soothes all children, and many writers.

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Joan Didion

Although I have felt compelled to write things down since I was five years old, I doubt that my daughter ever will, for she is a singularly blessed and accepting child, delighted with life exactly as life...

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Joan Didion

New York was no mere city. It was instead an infinitely romantic notion, the mysterious nexus of all love and money and power, the shining and perishable dream itself. To think of 'living' there was to...

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Joan Didion

To cure jealousy is to see it for what it is, a dissatisfaction with self.

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Joan Didion

A pool is, for many of us in the West, a symbol not of affluence but of order, of control over the uncontrollable. A pool is water, made available and useful, and is, as such, infinitely soothing to the...

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Joan Didion

Had my credentials been in order I would never have become a writer. Had I been blessed with even limited access to my own mind there would have been no reason to write. I write entirely to find out what...

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Joan Didion

Short stories demand a certain awareness of one's own intentions, a certain narrowing of the focus.

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Joan Didion

If we do not respect ourselves, we are on the one hand forced to despise those who have so few resources as to consort with us, so little perception as to remain blind to our fatal weaknesses. On the other,...

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Joan Didion

We imagine things — that we wouldn't be able to survive, but in fact, we do survive. ... We have no choice, so we do it.

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Joan Didion

We all survive more than we think we can,

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Joan Didion

When I'm working on a book, I constantly retype my own sentences. Every day I go back to page one and just retype what I have. It gets me into a rhythm.

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Joan Didion

Some of us who live in arid parts of the world think about water with a reverence others might find excessive.

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Joan Didion

The wind shows us how close to the edge we are.

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Joan Didion

Marriage is memory, marriage is time.

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Joan Didion

People with self-respect exhibit a certain toughness, a kind of moral nerve; they display what was once called *character,* a quality which, although approved in the abstract, sometimes loses ground to...

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Joan Didion

Read, learn, work it up, go to the literature. Information is control.

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Joan Didion

I know something about dread myself, and appreciate the elaborate systems with which some people fill the void, appreciate all the opiates of the people, whether they are as accessible as alcohol and heroin...

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Joan Didion

The past could be jettisoned . . . but seeds got carried.

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Joan Didion

I was supposed to have a script, and had mislaid it. I was supposed to hear cues, and no longer did. I was meant to know the plot, but all I knew was what I saw: flash pictures in variable sequence, images...

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Joan Didion

When I am near the end of a book, I have to sleep in the same room with it.

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Joan Didion

We write to discover what we think.

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Joan Didion

California is a place in which a boom mentality and a sense of Chekhovian loss meet in uneasy suspension; in which the mind is troubled by some buried but ineradicable suspicion that things better work...

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Joan Didion

One thing in my defense, not that it matters: I know something Carter never knew, or Helene, or maybe you. I know what "nothing" means, and keep on playing.

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Joan Didion

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.

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Joan Didion

Writing is the act of saying "I," of imposing oneself upon other people, of saying "listen to me, see it my way, change your mind."

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Joan Didion

My writing is a process of rewriting, of going back and changing and filling in. in the rewriting process you discover what's going on, and you go back and bring it up to that point.

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Joan Didion

The secret point of money and power in America is neither the things that money can buy nor power for power's sake... but absolute personal freedom, mobility, privacy. It is the instinct which drove America...

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Joan Didion

What's so hard about that first sentence is that you're stuck with it. Everything else is going to flow out of that sentence. And by the time you've laid down the first two sentences, your options are...

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Joan Didion

To have that sense of one's intrinsic worth which constitutes self-respect is potentially to have everything.

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Joan Didion

Making judgments on films is in many ways so peculiarly vaporous an occupation that the only question is why, beyond the obvious opportunities for a few lectures fees and a little careerism at a dispiritingly...

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Joan Didion

Above all, she is the girl who 'feels' things, who has hung on to the freshness and pain of adolescence, the girl ever wounded, ever young. Now, at an age when the wounds begin to heal whether one wants...

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Joan Didion

we are imperfect mortal beings, aware of that mortality even as we push it away, failed by our very complication, so wired that when we mourn our losses we also mourn, for better or for worse, ourselves....

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Joan Didion

I know why we try to keep the dead alive: we try to keep them alive in order to keep them with us.

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Joan Didion

Marriage is memory, marriage is time. Marriage is not only time: it is also, parodoxically, the denial of time.

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Joan Didion

The willingness to accept responsibility for one's own life is the source from which self-respect springs.

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Joan Didion

To free us from the expectations of others, to give us back to ourselves - there lies the great, singular power of self-respect.

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Joan Didion

Life changes fast. Life changes in the instant. You sit down to dinner and life as you know it ends.

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Joan Didion

Was it only by dreaming or writing that I could find out what I thought?

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Joan Didion

Self-respect is a question of recognizing that anything worth having has a price.

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Joan Didion

Hemingway was really early. I probably started reading him when I was just eleven or twelve. There was just something magnetic to me in the arrangement of those sentences. Because they were so simple -...

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Joan Didion

You have to pick the places you don't walk away from.

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Joan Didion

I don't lead a writer's life. And I think that can be a source of suspicion and irritation to some people.

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Joan Didion

Novels are like paintings, specifically watercolors. Every stroke you put down you have to go with. Of course you can rewrite, but the original strokes are still there in the texture of the thing.

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Joan Didion

Grammar is a piano I play by ear. All I know about grammar is its power.

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Joan Didion

Life changes in the instant. The ordinary instant.

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Joan Didion

We forget all too soon the things we thought we could never forget.

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Joan Didion

I write entirely to find out what I'm thinking, what I'm looking at, what I see and what it means. What I want and what I fear.

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Joan Didion

One of the things that happens to people in grief is they secretly think they're crazy, because they realize they are thinking things that don't make sense.

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Joan Didion

I don't think anybody feels like they're a good parent. Or if people think they're good parents, they ought to think again.

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Joan Didion

Of course great hotels have always been social ideas, flawless mirrors to the particular societies they service.

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Joan Didion

The writer is always tricking the reader into listening to their dream.

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Joan Didion

A place belongs forever to whoever claims it hardest, remembers it most obsessively, wrenches it from itself, shapes it, renders it, loves it so radically that he remakes it in his own image.

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Joan Didion

Memories are what you no longer want to remember.

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Joan Didion

My own fantasies of what life would be like at 24 tended to the more spectacular.

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Joan Didion

Strength is one of those things you're supposed to have. You don't feel that you have it at the time you're going through it.

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Joan Didion

Writers are always selling somebody out.

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Joan Didion

I could talk more directly in a nonfiction voice than I could in fiction.

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Joan Didion

I hadn't thought that I was generally a pack rat, but it turns out I am.

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Joan Didion

I'm totally in control of this tiny, tiny world right there at the typewriter.

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Joan Didion

Late afternoon on the West Coast ends with the sky doing all its brilliant stuff.

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Joan Didion

You had to feel the swell change. You had to go with the change. He told me that. No eye is on the sparrow but he did tell me that.

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Joan Didion

Ask anyone committed to Marxist analysis how many angels on the head of a pin, and you will be asked in return to never mind the angels, tell me who controls the production of pins.

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Joan Didion

I've never been keen on open adoption. It doesn't seem to solve the main problem with adoption, which is that somebody feels she was abandoned by someone else.

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Joan Didion

When we start deceiving ourselves into thinking not that we want something... but that it is a moral imperative that we have it, that is when we join the fashionable madmen.

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Joan Didion

Before I'd written movies, I never could do big set-piece scenes with a lot of different speakers - when you've got twelve people around a dinner table talking at cross purposes. I had always been impressed...

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Joan Didion

My only advantage as a reporter is that I am so physically small, so temperamentally unobtrusive, and so neurotically inarticulate that people tend to forget that my presence runs counter to their best...

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Joan Didion

Nonfiction is more personal for me. It's more personal in that it's more direct, and actually it's always been more direct, even when I first started doing pieces.

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Joan Didion

Writing fiction is for me a fraught business, an occasion of daily dread for at least the first half of the novel, and sometimes all the way through. The work process is totally different from writing...

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Joan Didion

Yes, but another writer I read in high school who just knocked me out was Theodore Dreiser. I read An American Tragedy all in one weekend and couldn't put it down - I locked myself in my room. Now that...

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Joan Didion

Most of our platitudes notwithstanding, self-deception remains the most difficult deception. The tricks that work on others count for nothing in that very well-lit back alley where one keeps assignation...

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Joan Didion

The impulse for much writing is homesickness. You are trying to get back home, and in your writing you are invoking that home, so you are assuaging the homesickness.

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Joan Didion

Details are our business as writers. Your heart leaps when you see a detail that can go somewhere

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Joan Didion

We live entirely, especially if we are writers, by the imposition of a narrative line upon disparate images.

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Joan Didion

You have to make sure you have the characters you want. That's really the most complicated part.

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Joan Didion

Do not whine... Do not complain. Work harder. Spend more time alone.

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Joan Didion

I mean maybe I was holding all the aces, but what was the game?

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Joan Didion

We imagined we knew everything the other thought, even when we did not necessarily want to know it, but in fact, I have come to see, we knew not the smallest fraction of what there was to know.

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Joan Didion

People tend to forget that my presence runs counter to their best interests. And it always does. That is one last thing to remember. Writers are always selling somebody out.

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Joan Didion

Memory fades, memory adjusts, memory conforms to what we think we remember.

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Joan Didion

In fact I no longer value this kind of memento. I no longer want reminders of what was, what got broken, what got lost, what got wasted. There was a period, a long period, dating from my childhood until...

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Joan Didion

When I began writing these pages I believed their subject to be children, the ones we have and the ones we wish we had, the ways in which we depend on our children to depend on us, the ways in which we...

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Joan Didion

You have your wonderful memories," people said later, as if memories were solace. Memories are not. Memories are by definition of times past, things gone. Memories are the Westlake uniforms in the closet,...

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Joan Didion

What does it cost to lose those weeks, that light, the very nights in the year preferred over all others? Can you evade the dying of the brightness? Or do you evade only its warning? Where are you left...

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Joan Didion

Let me just be in the ground. Let me just be in the ground and go to sleep.

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Joan Didion

Vanish. Pass into nothingness: the Keats line that frightened her. Fade as the blue nights fade, go as the brightness goes. Go back into the blue. I myself placed her ashes in the wall. I myself saw the...

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Joan Didion

Why do you always have to be right. Why do you always have to have the last word. For once in your life just let it go.

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Joan Didion

It is impossible to think of Howard Hughes without seeing the apparently bottomless gulf between what we say we want and what we do want, between what we officially admire and secretly desire, between,...

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Joan Didion

Had I been blessed with even limited access to my own mind there would have been no reason to write.

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Joan Didion

Americans are uneasy with their possessions, guilty about power, all of which is difficult for Europeans to perceive because they are themselves so truly materialistic, so versed in the uses of power.

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Joan Didion

Grief, when it comes, is nothing we expect it to be. Grief has no distance. Grief comes in waves, paroxysms, sudden apprehensions that weaken the knees and blind the eyes and obliterate the dailiness of...

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Joan Didion

I recall an August afternoon in Chicago in 1973 when I took my daughter, then seven, to see what Georgia O’Keeffe had done with where she had been. One of the vast O’Keeffe ‘Sky Above Clouds’ canvases...

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Joan Didion

I know what "nothing" means, and keep on playing.

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Joan Didion

I don't write for catharsis; I have to write to understand.

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Joan Didion

I have already lost touch with a couple of people I used to be

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Joan Didion

To have that sense of one's intrinsic worth which constitutes self-respect is potentially to have everything: the ability to discriminate, to love and to remain indifferent. To lack it is to be locked...

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Joan Didion

The impulse to write things down is a peculiarly compulsive one, inexplicable to those who do not share it

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Joan Didion

The last sentence in a piece is another adventure. It should open the piece up.

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Joan Didion

Writing nonfiction is more like sculpture, a matter of shaping the research into the finished thing.

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Joan Didion

I don't know what I think until I write it down.

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Joan Didion

Despite our preparation, indeed, despite our age, [the death of a parent] dislodges things deep in us, sets off reactions that surprise us and may cut free memories and feelings that we thought had gone...

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Joan Didion

Writers are only rarely likable.

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Joan Didion

In theory momentos serve to bring back the moment. In fact they serve only to make clear how inadequately I appreciated the moment when it was here. How inadequately I appreciated the moment when it was...

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Joan Didion

We are well advised to keep on nodding terms with the people we used to be, whether we find them attractive company or not.

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Joan Didion

California: The west coast of Iowa.

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Joan Didion

The fear is for what is still to be lost.

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Joan Didion

As a writer, even as a child, long before what I wrote began to be published, I developed a sense that meaning itself was resident in the rhythms of words and sentences and paragraphs...The way I write...

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Joan Didion

We were not having any fun, he had recently begun pointing out. I would take exception (didn't we do this, didn't we do that) but I had also known what he meant. He meant doing things not because we were...

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Joan Didion

I lost the conviction that lights would always turn green for me, the pleasant certainty that those rather passive virtues which had won me approval as a child automatically guaranteed me not only Phi...

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Joan Didion

To assign unanswered letters their proper weight, to free us from the expectations of others, to give us back to ourselves--there lies the great, the singular power of self-respect. Without it, one eventually...

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Joan Didion

[O]ne of the mixed blessings of being twenty and twenty-one and even twenty-three is the conviction that nothing like this, all evidence to the contrary notwithstanding, has ever happened before.

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Joan Didion

I know what the fear is. The fear is not for what is lost. What is lost is already in the wall. What is lost is already behind the locked doors. The fear is for what is still to be lost.

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Joan Didion

It is often said that New York is a city for only the very rich and the very poor. It is less often said that New York is also, at least for those of us who came there from somewhere else, a city for only...

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Joan Didion

The future always looks good in the golden land, because no one remembers the past.

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Joan Didion

We tell ourselves stories in order to live.

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Joan Didion

...quite simply, I was in love with New York. I do not mean “love” in any colloquial way, I mean that I was in love with the city, the way you love the first person who ever touches you and you never...

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Joan Didion

Innocence ends when one is stripped of the delusion that one likes oneself.

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Joan Didion

I closed the box and put it in a closet. There is no real way to deal with everything we lose.

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Joan Didion

Keepers of private notebooks are a different breed altogether, lonely and resistant rearrangers of things, anxious malcontents, children afflicted apparently at birth with some presentiment of loss.

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Joan Didion

I think we are well advised to keep on nodding terms with the people we used to be, whether we find them attractive company or not. Otherwise they turn up unannounced and surprise us, come hammering on...

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Joan Didion

That was the year, my twenty-eighth, when I was discovering that not all of the promises would be kept, that some things are in fact irrevocable and that it had counted after all, every evasion and every...

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Joan Didion

What makes Iago evil? Some people ask. I never ask.

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Joan Didion

It occurs to me that we allow ourselves to imagine only such messages as we need to survive.

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Joan Didion

I am a writer. Imagining what someone would say or do comes to me as naturally as breathing.

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Joan Didion

Grammar is a piano I play by ear.

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Joan Didion

A single person is missing for you, and the whole world is empty.

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Joan Didion

But the fact of it was that I liked it out there, a ruin devoid of human vanities, clean of human illusions, an empty place reclaimed by the weather where a woman plays an organ to stop the wind's whining...

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Joan Didion

Water is important to people who do not have it, and the same is true of control.

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Joan Didion

Time is the school in which we learn.

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Joan Didion

I found earthquakes, even when I was in them, deeply satisfying, abruptly revealed evidence of the scheme in action. That the schemes could destroy the works of man might be a personal regret but remained,...

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Joan Didion

As it happened, I didn't grow up to be the kind of woman who is the heroine in a Western, and although the men I have known have had many virtues and have taken me to live in many places I have come to...

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Joan Didion

Quite often you want to tell somebody your dream, your nightmare. Well, nobody wants to hear about someone else's dream, good or bad; nobody wants to walk around with it. The writer is always tricking...

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Joan Didion

I was in love with New York. I do not mean 'love' in any colloquial way, I mean that I was in love with the city, the way you love the first person who ever touches you and never love anyone quite that...

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Joan Didion

prepare a little hot tea or broth and it should be brought to them . . . without their being asked if they would care for it. Those who are in great distress want no food, but if it is handed to them,...

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Joan Didion

It occurs to me as I write that this "white light," usually presented dippily (evidence of afterlife, higher power), is in fact precisely consistent with the oxygen deficit that occurs as blood flow to...

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Joan Didion

We tell ourselves stories in order to live...We look for the sermon in the suicide, for the social or moral lesson in the murder of five. We interpret what we see, select the most workable of the multiple...

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“Don't cry because it's over, smile because it happened.”

― Dr. Seuss