February 4, 2021: Hilton Als and Jia Tolentino on Joan Didion – Now on YouTube

Hilton Als and Jia Tolentino on Joan Didion

Thursday, February 4, 2021

5:00PM PST

Watch the conversation here:


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Support authors and local bookstores by purchasing a copy of Let Me Tell You What I Mean from Skylight Books here.

We have reason to celebrate a little more in 2021: Joan Didion has a new book of previously uncollected essays, called Let Me Tell You What I Mean. It’s a gift to readers hungry to savor– or binge– twelve early essays in her signature straightforward style that manages to be deadpan, nuanced, and personal at once. The daughter of Sacramento and the troubadour of California, Didion gives us such detailed description that we become part of her story as we read. We imagine ourselves with her at Hearst Castle, or at the Gamblers Anonymous meeting, or meeting with Nancy Reagan. She speaks directly to us, dear reader– so directly that we cannot avert our eyes from the page. Not that we’d ever want to. (Didion is not currently scheduled to participate in the livestream.)

Photograph by Ali Smith

Hilton Als, theater critic, culture critic, and all-around man about town for The New Yorker, has won prize after prize, from the Pulitzer to a Guggenheim, among others. His book, White Girls, was nominated for a National Book Critics Circle Award, and winner of the Lambda Literary Prize for nonfiction. He has cited Joan Didion as a major influence on his work. He’s written the foreword to Let Me Tell You What I Mean, and neatly sums up her work when he considers that “her famous clarity becomes even sharper when disquiet rattles the cage of the quotidian.”

Jia Tolentino is a young and terrific writer, who is a staff writer for The New Yorker. She is the author of the acclaimed essay collection, Trick Mirror: Reflections on Self Delusion, which hit every 10-best list from NPR to the New York Times, to Good Housekeeping. Like Didion, Jia thinks about cultural phenomena that confound us and define us, and sometimes wholly absorb us. Zadie Smith suggests that Jia could be the Joan Didion of our time.