Writer: Joan Didion

I just discovered Joan Didion for myself about 15 minutes ago via this article from MonsterChildren. I actually had to go back to another tab on my browser to in order to remember her last name- I’m that unfamiliar with her.

I am now, however, feeling slightly obsessed.

Screen shot 2014-10-28 at 12.25.50 PM
Photo: Quintana Roo Dunne, via Vogue.com

The voice she has is one I personally relate to, and one that is able to frankly speak the truth without sounding pessimistic or overly optimistic; they’re just statements that are true. Here are some quotations from her essay, “On Self-Respect” from a 1961 volume of Vogue. The notes she makes here on the merits of having “self-respect” and “character” also eerily align with conclusions made by Paul Tough in his book How Children Succeed. Please enjoy the following excerpts from her 1961 essay, and I hope you take a moment to read the piece in its entirety as well.

“There is a common superstition that “self-respect” is a kind of charm against snakes, something that keeps those who have it locked in some unblighted Eden, out of strange beds, ambivalent conversations, and trouble in general.”

“…[in reality], people with self-respect have the courage of their mistakes. They know the price of things.”

“If they choose to forego their work—say it is screenwriting—in favor of sitting around the Algonquin bar, they do not then wonder bitterly why the Hacketts, and not they, did Anne Frank.”

“…they display what was once called character,”

“People who respect themselves are willing to accept the risk that [people] will be hostile, that the venture will go bankrupt, that the liaison may not turn out to be one in which every day is a holiday because you’re married to me. They are willing to invest something of themselves; they may not play at all, but when they do play, they know the odds.”

“Without it, one eventually discovers the final turn of the screw: one runs away to find oneself, and finds no one at home”


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