You don’t have to write much more in a headline than that to catch attention. The New Yorker is doing a bit of a dive into what women’s lives were like in Didion’s novels. Of course, it’s, you know, written by a guy.
As the lovely New York spring of 1977 turned into the worst kind of New York summer, I did two things over and over again: I watched Robert Altman’s mid-career masterpiece “3 Women,” at a theatre in midtown, and I read Joan Didion’s astounding third novel, “A Book of Common Prayer.” Released within weeks of each other that year, when I was sixteen, these two revelatory pieces of art shared a strong aesthetic atmosphere, an incisive view of uneasy friendships between women, a deadpan horror of consumerism, and an understanding of how the uncanny can manifest in the everyday. Reading and watching—it wasn’t long before Altman’s and Didion’s projects merged in my mind, where they constituted a kind of mini-Zeitgeist, one that troubled, undid, and then remade my ideas about how feminism might inform popular art.