“[People who respect themselves] are willing to invest something of themselves; they may not play at all, but when they do play, they know the odds.” - Joan Didion
Joan Didion has long been worshipped as a literary savant, with a sort of untouchable coolness to her persona. Didion was born in Sacramento in 1934, and had a somewhat privileged and, at the same time, chaotic upbringing characterized by her father's military service during WWII and eventual depression. She studied English at Berkeley and, in 1956, won an essay contest sponsored by Vogue and subsequently moved to New York to contribute to editorial pieces at the magazine.
While producing fashion-focused pieces by day, Didion spent late nights pursuing the burning ambition to write a novel. By 1963, she published her first novel, Run River. While she's continued to pen novels through her career, Didion has become far better known for her controversial, rule-breaking style of critical writing that surfaced in essays, political reportage and memoir. After the death of her husband, fellow writer John Gregory Dunne, and their adopted daughter, Quintana Roo, Didion published The Year of Magical Thinking, a reflection on grief and memory, that became a best-seller and won the National Book Award for non-fiction. Some of Didion's other most idolized works include her 1967 essay "Goodbye to All That", 1968 collection of essays "Slouching Towards Bethlehem" and, our personal favorite, "Self-Respect", Didion's 1961 essay from the pages of Vogue.
Joan Didion has observed, lived, questioned and written unapologetically, making her damned hard to beat on of our list of Noir women who continue to pave the way for iconic female voices and personae.
“We do not see things as they are, we see them as we are.”
- Anaïs Nin
You might recognize this quote, but you probably wouldn’t know that it’s author is one of the more kickass women to have made her mark on literary history, defying social norms and paving the way for future female writers and artists.
A controversial, Cuban-French author and essayist, Anaïs Nin has become somewhat of an emblem of modern day feminism, having pushed the boundaries of explicit writing from a female point of view at a time when it was… pretty unpopular. Her most famous body of work is considered to be her autobiography, The Diary of Anaïs Nin (1966), possibly reflective of her insistence that she was “by far her most fascinating character.” A far more scholarly and sophisticated prelude to what we know today as “that shit called reality TV", Nin documented her wildly amorous adventures without apology, including her infamous and long-lasting affair with American writer Henry Miller. After her death, she was featured in her New York Times obituary as being survived by her husband, Hugh Guiler, and in her Los Angeles Times obituary as being survived by her husband, Rupert Pole. (In case you did a double take there, yes, both accounts are accurate).
After being all but excommunicated from the literary community (Harcourt dropped her in 1995 after the release of a scathing [read: slut-shaming-but-they-didn’t-have-that-term-yet] biographical account), Nin has returned as a fierce beacon of inspiration to young artists; the landscape has changed in the last 20 years, and has essentially caught up with Nin.
Having dedicated the last years of her life to responding to thousands of fan letters, we know she would’ve been a social media maven, and probably would’ve spent her time schooling/imparting her wisdom upon the ‘girl squads’ of today. The ultimate Noir woman, and a decidedly unconventional heroine.