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Joan Didion, author of the best-selling memoir The Year of Magical Thinking, will speak on campus on Feb. 28. The book recently won the 2005 National Book Award for nonfiction.
As the 2006 Morgan Writer-in-Residence at UNC, Didion will present the free public reading at 7:30 p.m. in Memorial Hall. Didion had been announced as the 2004 Morgan Writer-in-Residence but was forced to postpone activities associated with the program following the sudden death of her husband, author John Gregory Dunne. In The Year of Magical Thinking, Didion examines the truth about intimacy, grief and denial during the year after Dunne’s death in December 2003, weeks after their daughter lapsed into a coma. Didion and Dunne had been married for nearly 40 years when he suffered a fatal heart attack at their dinner table.
The book begins: “Life changes fast. Life changes in the instant. You sit down to dinner and life as you know it ends.”
Dunne’s death propelled Didion into a state she calls “magical thinking.” She finished the book late in 2004, and it was published in October 2005, two months after her only child, Quintana Roo Dunne Michael, died at age 39.
The Washington Post called Didion’s memoir “a work of surprising clarity and honesty,” and The New York Times named it one of the “10 Best Books of 2005.” Publishers Weekly described the book as “an indispensable addition to Didion’s body of work and a lyrical, disciplined entry in the annals of mourning literature.”
A keen observer of politics and culture, Didion has written nine nonfiction books and five novels. Her other nonfiction books include Where I Was From, Fixed Ideas: America Since 9.11, Political Fictions, Slouching Towards Bethlehem, The White Album, Salvador, Miami and After Henry. Her novels include Run River, Play It As It Lays, A Book of Common Prayer, Democracy and The Last Thing He Wanted.
Didion and Dunne co-authored seven screenplays, including Up Close and Personal and the 1976 remake of A Star is Born. Didion’s essays have appeared in The New York Review of Books, The New Yorker and other major magazines.
Her UNC visit is sponsored by the English department in the College of Arts and Sciences and the Morgan Writer-in-Residence Program. Carolina alumni Allen ’65 and Musette Morgan ’76 of Memphis, Tenn., established the program in 1993 to bring writers of distinction to campus.
Previous Morgan writers have included the late Shelby Foote ’39, Russell Banks ’67, Annie Dillard, Beth Henley, Richard Ford, Robert Pinsky, Rita Dove, John Edgar Wideman, Tobias Wolff and Calvin Trillin.
Parking for the event is available after 5 p.m. in some campus lots and in pay lots on Rosemary Street. Doors will open for the event at 6:45 p.m.