Goodbye to Joan Didion

Cynthia Giles
Schopenhauer & Friends
3 min readDec 31, 2021


A slow fading ends . . .

Once upon a time, I created a Medium publication called Nothing Applies, and subtitled “A literary focus on some philosophical and psychological matters — as seen through the lens of one writer, one novel.”

I went to a good bit of trouble to create a handsome design for the pub, but if you’re reading it now, you’ll see that it’s been reconfigured to match Medium’s preference for uniformity. That’s one of the reasons I no longer write here.

But with the passing of Joan Didion, I decided that some kind of farewell ritual was in order. I wasn’t ever what you might call a fan of Joan Didion’s work — I just thought she wrote (semi-accidentally) one brilliant novel. And that she was an interesting case study in literary celebrity.

I enjoyed writing these seven stories about Didion and Play It As It Lays, and don’t want to leave them behind. But I also don’t have much to add to them — at least not at the moment, and not in the Medium mode. So I’ve decided to package them up like a picnic, and take them to a more suitable place.

For now, though, please enjoy. And share liberally. I’ve made them free.

Here are the simple links, so you don’t have to scroll through Medium’s idea of a “frictionless reading” experience. I can’t speak for Joan, but I think she would have hated the whole idea of a reading experience without friction — without provocation, perplexity, occasional annoyance, sudden realization.

What’s the point of that, after all?

Play It as It Lays: The Novel

Joan Didion’s brief, indelible, and partly accidental masterpiece

Joan Didion: A Writer’s Space

Some connected designs of life and fiction

Play It as It Lays: The Movie

Didion co-wrote the screenplay for this faithful but almost-forgotten adaptation of her novel

“What Nothing Means”

Notes on despair, desire, and determination in Joan Didion’s Play It as It Lays

Joan Didion’s “White Space” Novel

Play It as It Lays, and the freedoms of interpretation

Play It as It Lays, at 50

Two early reviews refract the strange light of Didion’s novel

Joan Didion Talks about Writing, and Play It as It Lays

She’s unusually relaxed in this fascinating 1977 interview . . .

Closing this post with some images from the pub:

One of many covers for the many editions
An unexpectedly fascinating House & Garden story on Didion’s iconic New York apartment
An indelible image for an under-appreciated film
Words not required . . .



Cynthia Giles
Schopenhauer & Friends

Writer at large, Ph.D. in interdisciplinary humanities. Persistently curious! Launching Complexity Press, Spring 2023.