March 30, 2023

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New York Public Library Acquires Joan Didion Papers

“Our jaws were hanging open,” Kelly said.

Their first visits coincided with Last year’s auction of Didion’s personal belongingsthat sold unbridled the prices — $9,000 for a set of blank notebooks, $10,500 for some stained pots and pans — they watched in amazement. (Kelly said the auction, which raised a total of $1.9 million for For charitable reasonsdid not affect the price paid for the archive, which the library does not disclose.)

Kelly added that the auction “tells us a lot about Joan Didion’s great fondness — not just her work, but something about her authorial personality that people find fascinating and seek to emulate.”

The archive, Golia said, reflects Didion’s cultured awareness of her self-display.

“With women writers, they manage their literary talents and they also manage their images,” she said. “She was remarkably talented in both. She knew exactly what she was doing.”

Gulia said that the archive does not contain personal diaries. But she does provide a rich stream of personal correspondence, including both family letters (more than 140 of them from her college and Vogue years) and correspondence with the couple’s wide circle of friends and colleagues, among them Richard Avedon, Helen Gurley-Brown, and Michael. Crichton, Nora Ephron, Allen Ginsburg, Lillian Hellman, Diane Keaton, Justice Anthony Kennedy, Norman Lear, Jacqueline Onassis, Philip Roth, and Charles Schulz.

There was “poignant” correspondence with John Wayne (about whom Didion wrote the 1965 essay “John Wayne: A Love Song”) and letters from Tennessee Williams, Golia said, including a collage of dried flowers inscribed to her from 1973.

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“Williams was someone who immediately recognized Didion’s brilliance, became fascinated and close with her,” Kelly said.