Joan Didion American Literature Analysis
As her essays and fiction demonstrate, Didion’s perspective on life is that of the witness who is both part of and apart from what she so critically observes. She is a loner, resistant to identification with any movement or label—despite her many contributions to The New York Review of Books, often considered a leftist publication. She is a moralist, although one who does not offer herself as a model for others, in thought or behavior. Yet even in the absence of high expectations for either herself or society, she does make great demands on both. While acknowledging the extent of disasters in ordinary lives, she requires a willed effort to probe constantly for whatever degree of self-control and self-affirmation is possible. This is what “living on the edge” means to her, and therefore to her characters: the edge as impending cliff or as opening frontier.
As Didion fought to overcome her shyness, she also risked visits beyond the continental United States—typically to southern places: Hawaii, Latin America, Indonesia. Her reportage has always been incisive and therefore useful as a portrait not only of political temperaments in tropical places but also of the peculiarities of the United States’ foreign policy. Too often, she implies, American alliances have been made with anticommunists who show no love of democracy. Such is the inference one draws from her novel A Book of Common Prayer and her nonfiction works...
(The entire section is 4430 words.)
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