RIP: Joan Didion

Interrupting the holiday break here to bring news you’ve surely already heard: one of the greatest writers and thinkers of the 20th Century has died at the age of 87. New York Times has the obit.

Joan Didion Interview Ahead of Let Me Tell You What I Mean | Time

Her attraction to trouble spots, disintegrating personalities and incipient chaos came naturally. In the title essay from “The White Album,” she included her own psychiatric evaluation after arriving at the outpatient clinic of St. John’s Hospital in Santa Monica complaining of vertigo and nausea.

It read, in part: “In her view she lives in a world of people moved by strange, conflicted, poorly comprehended, and, above all, devious motivations which commit them inevitably to conflict and failure.” This description, which Ms. Didion did not contest, could describe the archetypal heroine of her novels.

Monday pre-madness wrap up

Might take a week or two off to concentrate on not letting the holidays be ruined by the pandemic, etc. If I disappear, that’s where I am and I’ll be back in January. Schools just closed down early here, so let’s see how it goes.

An Oral History of 'Dumpster Fire'

Are bookstores dying… because of bookstores

Is Barnes and Noble helping to kill off bookstores, including itself? Hm. Sounds like a debate we’ve been having for near 30 years. If BN undercuts the price of indie stores, and undercuts the price of its own retail stores, and if the ad algorithms on allow Amazon to pop up with ads further undercut BN itself, what hope is there? Where is the incentive to shop any other way?

To make sure the store had Dalio’s book, I went to and saw that the book, with a publisher’s price of $35, was available at the store and was being sold on for $27.99. And that $27.99 would have included free shipping to my home, if I had wanted the book sent to me.

When I was checking out of the store, I was surprised to see that I was being charged $31.50 rather than $27.99. That’s the full $35 list price, less the 10 percent discount that I get from my Barnes & Noble membership.

When I told the cashier that I thought the price would be $27.99 because that’s what the website said, she asked me to wait for a few seconds. She did some checking, and promptly and cheerfully charged me $27.99. But if I hadn’t asked for that price, I wouldn’t have gotten it.

When I got home, I went back to and discovered to my astonishment that there was a pop-up ad from Amazon on the site offering Dalio’s book for $21.57 — more than 20 percent below’s price. When last I looked, the Amazon price on was down to $21.09.

(Amazon founder and former CEO Jeff Bezos owns The Washington Post.)

I wanted to see whether Amazon undercutting the price of Dalio’s book with a pop-up ad on was a one-off fluke.

It wasn’t.

Monday news roundup

On writers and day jobs

Why your identity should be more than your day job - The Economic Times

Man, don’t I know it. Everything I do these days is an attempt to put food on the table without going back to soul-eating work for a company I don’t give a rat’s ass about. Since I started writing I’ve done the following day jobs: bartender, social worker, martial arts coach, bookstore clerk, computer trainer, high school teacher, web designer, policy analyst, communications officer, communications coordinator, communications manager, magazine editor, executive director, adjunct professor, marketing specialist, public relations manager, marketing manager, etc. etc. etc. Now I am trying to run my own company and it’s sort of slightly better for a lot less money. Meh, I’m calling it a win.

In a diary entry dated 1911, Kafka writes that having a day job “is a horrible double life from which there is probably no escape but insanity.” Academia and publishing offer literature-adjacent careers to a small number of writers (who must find time for their own work even within these literary industries), and the rest of us are left to eke out our livelihoods in nontraditional ways, balancing odd hours and demanding labor with creative work (not to mention regular lives of meals, children, exercise, even—dare I say—leisure?).

I asked seven writers about their day jobs and how they manage to produce work in their off hours without losing their minds.