The Last Thing They Wanted

I suspect that Guardian blogger Louis Wise is being somewhat broad-brush in characterizing Joan Didion as a neglected author in England–if she’s getting a spotlight at the National Theatre, things can’t be that bad. But Wise’s post does make me wonder if Didion is an American author who has an especially hard time getting over with foreign readers—her ’60s and ’70s essays, at least, have a level of specificity and detail about American life that might come off as a little guess-you-had-to-be-there. (Slouching Toward Bethlehem‘s California vibe made more sense to me when I was living in San Francisco, albeit a few decades removed from the stories the book tells.) So I don’t think sexism is at play here, at least in Didion’s case. (And not racism either—what’s with Wise’s claim that Joyce Carol Oates is “sidelined” by it?) It may simply be that Didion speaks more assertively in an American vernacular–one of those U.S. writers who could use a translator in the U.K.

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