Know Your Enemy

Joan Didion, Conservative (w/ Sam Tanenhaus)

Episode Summary

Matt and Sam are joined by Sam Tanenhaus to make sense of Joan Didion's conservatism: her Sacramento roots, her early writing for National Review, why she loved Barry Goldwater (and hated Ronald Reagan), and much, much more.

Episode Notes

When Joan Didion died at the age of 87 in December, her early conservatism figured into a number of obituaries and commentaries, but was rarely discussed in detail. Matt and Sam turned to Sam Tanenhaus, William F. Buckley, Jr.'s biographer and knower of all things National Review, to discuss Didion's early writing for the magazine, her roots in California conservatism,  and how her politics changed—and didn't—over the course of her long career.  Along the way, they discuss why she loved Barry Goldwater and hated Ronald Reagan, why she finally stopped writing for National Review, and how she compares to other writers from that era—from Norman Mailer and Tom Wolfe to Gore Vidal and Garry Wills. 


Joan Didion: 

"On Self-Respect,"  Vogue,  1961

I want to go ahead and do it,' (Review of Mailer), NYTimes, Oct 7, 1979

"The Lion King," (Review of Dinesh D'Souza), NYRB, Dec 18, 1997

"New York: Sentimental Journeys,"  NYRB, Jan 17, 1991. 

"John Wayne: A Love Song," Saturday Evening Post, 1965

Slouching Toward Bethlehem (1968)

The White Album  (1979)

Salvador (1983)

Political Fictions (2001)

Where I Was From  (2003)

A collection of Didion's National Review Writing 

Commentary on Joan Didion:

Ross Douthat, "Try Canceling Joan Didion," NYTimes, Jan 5, 2022

Parul Sehgal, "The Case Against the Trauma Plot," NYTimes, Dec 27,  2021

Louis Menand, “Out of Bethlehem,” New Yorker, Aug 17, 2015

Stephen Schryer, "Writers for Goldwater,"  Post45, Jan 20, 2020

Haley Mlotek, "It’s All in the Angles," The Nation, June 15, 2021

Caitlin Flanagan, "The Autumn of Joan Didion," The Atlantic, Feb 15, 2021

Jacob Bacharach, "Joan Didion Cast Off the Fictions of American Politics," The New Republic, Dec 27, 2021

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