When the Public Narrative Fails

In a Nation That's Lost Its Way, Literature—the Private Narratives of Others—Can Guide Us

Leave it to Joan Didion. In her essay “Slouching Towards Bethlehem,” published in 1967, she identified a kind of slippage in our culture, the breakdown of collective narrative. “The center was not holding,” she famously begins, before moving on to details: “casual killings and misplaced children and abandoned homes and vandals who misspelled even the four-letter words they scrawled.” It’s a set of images to which I find myself returning here in the summer of 2022, when the Supreme Court has voted to overturn Roe v. Wade; the findings of …

Joan Didion Helped Me Tell My Own Story

Her Language and Landscapes Carved Out a Literary Space for My San Bernardino Childhood

When I arrived at Stanford, I was immediately confronted with the clues of my inferiority.

The other students had straight white teeth, more than one week’s worth of clothing, and “pocket …

California’s Next Joan Didion Can Sing | Zocalo Public Square • Arizona State University • Smithsonian

California’s Next Joan Didion Can Sing

Phoebe Bridgers Offers an Homage to, and an Improvement on, the Classic Golden State Interpreter

California’s next Joan Didion might be an improvement on the original.

For one thing, she can sing.

Phoebe Bridgers, a brilliant and versatile 26-year-old musician and songwriter, isn’t just contending for four …