Items from the estate of the author and intellectual, who died in 2021, will be auctioned in New York. Fans flood the auction house with inquiries – they would give almost anything for just one Didion paperclip.
When the writer Joan Didion died at the end of last year at the age of 87, America lost one of its most important chroniclers. In her essays, reports and novels, she precisely dissected American society and showed that the myths that shape the country have little to do with reality. Didion has been considered a model intellectual in the United States for decades. She only became known to us through her two books in which she dealt with heavy losses. In 2005’s “The Year of Magical Thinking” she dealt with the sudden death of her husband, the writer and screenwriter John Dunne. She dedicated “Blue Hours” to her daughter Quintana Roo, who died just a year and a half after her husband.
Didion had been married to Dunne for nearly forty years when he died of a heart attack in 2003. In her book, Didion recounts how after his death she gave away most of his clothes but wanted to keep his shoes for the time being. If he did come back after all, he would eventually need her. Magical thinking helped Didion keep his feet on the ground during the first phase of mourning.
For their part, fans of the author can now also cultivate magical thinking. Hundreds of items from the author’s estate will be on display in New York through November 16 auctioned, including her iconic sunglasses, writing utensils, Le Creuset pots and pans, photographs and paintings, a collection of shells, and an oak desk that her parents bought. You can bid online for the items until mid-November. Books from her library will also be auctioned, such as “A Farewell to Arms” by Ernest Hemingway, who, like her once said Sylvia Plath’s The Bell Jar, Joyce Carol Oates’ Wonderland and The Oxford Book of Marriage.
Fire connects Didion with the feeling of being at home
Each item helps to get an idea of how the author lived privately, said Lisa Thomas of the Stair Galleries auction house «New York Times». And apparently there is a great desire among her fans to be close to Didion by owning a private item even after her death. In any case, they follow the auction closely: since the auction was announced in the summer, the auction house has been “flooded” with emails and calls, says Thomas. Some fans tried to grab even the smallest things like a paperclip.
Didion was born in 1934 in the gold rush town of Sacramento, California. Her family had been there for five generations: her ancestors were among the first settlers to cross the prairie to try their luck on America’s west coast. Didion later studied English literature in Berkeley and then moved to New York, where she worked for the fashion magazine “Vogue” between 1956 and 1964 and laid the foundations of her career. Didion then moved back to Los Angeles, where she and Dunne lived for the next few years. The two led a rich social life and were friends with many well-known people. They regularly threw lavish parties at their homes in Brentwood and Malibu. After 24 years in Los Angeles, they said goodbye. In 1988, Didion and Dunne moved to New York. It’s time for a change this is how they justified their decision at the time.
However, California remained Didion’s inner home. “I hope you California it up,” said her daughter when she saw the apartment her parents had bought on New York’s Upper East Side in 1988. More Californian flair would do the apartment good, she said. Photos from 2005 show that Didion followed her daughter’s advice: the windowsill was full of kerosene lamps, which can also be bought at the auction in New York. The lights reminded the couple of California evenings, when the Santa Ana winds in their house meant the electricity went out and kerosene lamps lit up.
The light and warmth of an open fire were also always important to Didion and her husband. In “The Year of Magical Thinking” she wrote that in California they used fireplaces to heat their houses. Even on summer evenings they lit the wood because the fog crept through the walls. “The fire told us we were home, came full circle, we were safe for the night,” she wrote.
A notebook is a reminder of what it was like to be yourself
When Didion died, there were 38 empty notebooks in her apartment, and now so are these auctioned will. As of this writing, the bid for a batch of 13 is $1800. Didion began to write down observations and thoughts at the age of five, as she wrote in her 1966 essay “The sense of owning a notebook”. Her mother gave her a pad of notes and asked her to write down her thoughts instead of whining. The tradition of recording was already firmly rooted in Didion’s family. Even their ancestors kept diaries on the prairie, which they passed on to their descendants. On this basis, Didion later wrote the essay “Where I Came From” about the history and society of California.
But what exactly did she want to remember through her notes, Didion wondered. “The point of having a notebook was never to record exactly what I actually did or thought,” she wrote. But: “Remembering what it was like to be me: That’s the point.” Nevertheless, she does not see writing as a joyful activity: notebook owners belong to a different breed, Didion wrote, “they are lonely and rebellious and have to constantly sort things out, they are anxious and dissatisfied, children who seem to already be at their birth has stricken with a premonition of loss».
Familiar objects can comfort a loss because the things we surround ourselves with are things that matter. Joan Didion therefore picked up her late husband’s shoes. And perhaps through Didion’s notebooks or kerosene lamps a tiny modicum of her intellectual power and character will be transferred to the new owners. Items aren’t magical, but sometimes meaningful.