In 1988, Joan Didion began looking at the American political process for The New York Review of Books. What she found was not a mechanism that offered the nation’s citizens a voice in its affairs but one designed by—and for—“that handful of insiders who invent, year in and year out, the narrative of public life.” The eight pieces collected here from The New York Review build, one on the other, to a stunning whole, a portrait of the American political landscape that tells us, devastatingly, how we got where we are today.
In Political Fictions, tracing the dreamwork that was already clear at the time of the first Bush ascendance in 1988, Didion covers the ways in which the continuing and polarizing nostalgia for an imagined America led to the entrenchment of a small percentage of the electorate as the nation’s deciding political force, the ways in which the two major political parties have worked to narrow the electorate to this manageable element, the readiness with which the media collaborated in this process, and, finally and at length, how this mindset led inexorably over the past dozen years to the crisis that was the 2000 election. In this book Didion cuts to the core of the deceptions and deflections to explain and illuminate what came to be called “the disconnect”—and to reveal a political class increasingly intolerant of the nation that sustains it.
Joan Didion’s profound understanding of America’s political and cultural terrain, her sense of historical irony, and the play of her imagination make Political Fictions a disturbing and brilliant tour de force.
“One of our most cherished and insightful explicators of American culture...brings her perspective to the ultimate insider world.” –San Francisco Chronicle
“Splendid . . . Didion [is] on pure zen target . . . [with] her sonar ear, her radar eye, and her ice pick/laser beam/night—scope sniper prose.” –The New York Times Book Review
“A steel spine of political argument . . . a mordant wit, refined critical powers, and a bone-deep knowledge of the ways in which Americans like to amuse and fool themselves.” –The Washington Post
“One of the most preeminent voices of journalism has stepped into the ring. . . . [A] gift.” –Susan Faludi, The New York Observer
New York Review of Books
The Washington Post reviews Political Fictions
Joan Didion was born in Sacramento, California and graduated with a B.A. from the University of California at Berkeley. She has been a novelist, essayist and screenwriter for more than three decades and was awarded the 1996 Edward MacDowell Medal and the 1999 Columbia Journalism Award.
Her novels include Run River (1963), Play It As It Lays (1970), A Book of Common Prayer (1977), Democracy (1984), and The Last Thing He Wanted (1996). Her non-fiction includes Slouching Towards Bethlehem (1968), The White Album (1978), Salvador (1983), Miami (1987) and After Henry (1992). Ms. Didion and her husband, John Gregory Dunne, have co-authored the screenplays The Panic in Needle Park (1971), Play It As It Lays (1973), A Star Is Born (1977), True Confessions (1982), Hills Like White Elephants (1990) and Up Close and Personal (1995). She has lectured at various colleges and universities including UC Berkeley, UCLA, Stanford, Bard, Yale, and the Columbia Graduate School of Journalism.
Ms. Didion currently lives in New York with her husband, John Gregory Dunne, and is a contributor to The New York Review of Books and The New Yorker.
From the Hardcover edition.