Spotlight On: Joan Didion

Photographed by Julian Wasser, 1970, via the American Cool exhibit at the National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution;
courtesy of the artist and Craig Krull Gallery, Santa Monica, California

“It is easy to see the beginnings of things, and harder to see the ends,” Joan Didion wrote in her 1967 essay “Goodbye to All That.” Prescient words, considering what was to come for her in a few short years. Her first collection of nonfiction writing, Slouching Towards Bethlehem was published to much acclaim the following year. It remains, for many readers, her most seminal work, and paved the way for later non-fiction favorites The White Album and The Year of Magical Thinking. By the time the writer was captured by photographer Julian Wasser in a long dress and sandals, leaning against her Corvette Stingray in 1970, she was a literary tour-de-force — with Play It as It Lays gone to press — a distiller of California spirit and, unintentionally, a budding style icon.

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