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Griffin Dunne Remembers Aunt Joan Didion: In Examining Grief, She Gave ‘Hope and Meaning to Those Who Needed It Most’

Griffin Dunne Joan Didion
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Actor and filmmaker Griffin Dunne paid tribute to his aunt, acclaimed author Joan Didion, who died on Thursday at 87.

Dunne said Didion, who was the subject of his haunting 2017 Netflix documentary “Joan Didion: The Center Will Not Hold,” “wrote about grief to find out what she felt, but ended up giving hope and meaning to those who needed it most.”

“Yesterday morning I said goodbye to my Aunt Joan for the last time,” Dunne, the son of Didion’s brother-in-law, author Dominick Dunne, said in a statement on Friday. “Yesterday morning her enormous readership also began their goodbyes to Joan Didion, one of the greatest writers of our time.

“In 1961, as a young contributor at Vogue, Joan once wrote, ‘People with self-respect exhibit a certain toughness, a kind of moral nerve; they display what was once called character.’ As her nephew, I was fortunate enough to witness firsthand Joan’s character, her self-respect, her certain toughness. These qualities are ones I admire and have tried to learn from all my life.

“Her voice was that of a writer who saw things as they were before most of us. She wrote about grief to find out what she felt, but ended up giving hope and meaning to those who needed it most. Now I find myself in grief, which I share with so many others who are also mourning this great loss.”

“The Center Will Not Hold” included archival footage and conversations between Dunne and Didion.

The death of the iconic writer left the literary world and Didion’s legion of fans reeling on Thursday. Also an essayist and screenwriter, Didion rose to prominence in the 1960s as a leader in the New Journalism movement, and managed to keep generations of readers captivated with her distinctive voice and acute observations, especially of California life.

Essay collections “Slouching Towards Bethlehem” (1968) and “The White Album” (1979); plus novels “Play It as It Lays” (1970), which she adapted for a 1972 film; “A Book of Common Prayer” (1977); “Democracy” (1984), and “The Last Thing He Wanted” (1996), adapted into a 2020 film by Dee Rees, cemented her legacy as one of the 20th century’s most masterful writers.