Joan Didion (1934- ) is a novelist, journalist, and memoirist from California who for over 50 years has written some of the sharpest and most evocative analyses of American culture, politics, and mise en scène. Her novels capture a victorious postwar people struggling with anxieties, doubts, and the chloroform of abundance. Although the literary influences on her seem clear (Joseph Conrad, Hemingway, noir, perhaps some Beat), she is justly famous for her own cool, distanced, and all-seeing style. Her writing imbues us with awe. If you want to understand America, you must read Didion.