Joan Didion made her name with the essay collection Slouching Toward Bethlehem (1968) and the novel Play It As It Lays (1970). A California native, she was in her last year in college at Berkeley in 1956 when she won a contest whose award was a job with Vogue magazine. While working as a magazine writer and editor, she wrote her first novel, River Run, published in 1963. She married writer John Gregory Dunne in 1964 and moved back to California, and the two of them became part of the smart set of journalist-novelists -- celebrities as well as paid observers of celebrity. The couple collaborated on screenplays (their first, 1971's Panic in Needle Park, introduced Al Pacino to moviegoers), and Didion became famous for her stylized prose and snarky observations about American society. During the 1970s and '80s, she turned her attention toward the politics of Central America, while her most famous screenplay became the 1976 version of A Star is Born (starring Barbra Streisand). As an elder of American journalism, she won a National Book Award for 2006's The Year of Magical Thinking, a reflection on the sudden death of her husband and the fatal illness of their adopted child, Quintana Roo. Her other books include the novel A Book of Common Prayer (1977) and a collection of essays, The White Album (1979). Her screenplays include 1981's True Confessions (starring Robert De Niro) and 1996's Up Close and Personal (starring Robert Redford).
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