Renowned Author Joan Didion to speak at UCSD

Widely acclaimed for her minimalist prose and keen powers of observation, Joan Didion arrives at the Neuroscience’s Institute on Oct. 15 for an on-stage interview about her latest work. Ranging from topics like the intentional cover-up of a massacre in El Salvador to the pseudo-intellectual whining of Newt Gingrich, Joan Didion’s “”Political Fictions”” presents a bleak yet familiar view of politics in the United States through a collection of eight essays written for the “”New York Times Book Review.””

Book: Political Fictions is Didion¹s latest work.

Didion outlines exhaustive examples of how American “”democracy”” is dominated by an elite political class with little concern for the citizens themselves.

Didion will speak about her work in conversation with Dr. Michael Bernstein, a UCSD professor of history and economics. The interview is part of the Revelle Forum sponsored by UCSD Extension, which aims to open conversations with leading cultural figures in a public venue and offer a glimpse of the person behind the persona. As described by City Arts & Lectures, Inc., the Revelle Forum highlights “”diverse perspectives”” from leaders “”in the world of art and ideas.””

Didion began her career by winning Vogue magazine’s essay contest as an undergraduate at the University of California at Berkeley. After working as a columnist in New York, she reached national popularity in 1968 with “”Slouching Towards Bethlehem,”” a collection of essays about the turbulent 1960s, and “”The White Album,”” followed by several more novels.

“”Joan Didion is one of the most eminent writers in America, and has been for a long time,”” said Daniel Atkinson, director of UCSD Extension’s department of art, humanities and languages.

Presently, Didion has shifted toward non-fiction works about American cities and culture, partly based on experience as a political campaign reporter.

In “”Political Fictions,”” the author’s biting criticism of the artificial narratives and ubiquitous photo opportunities created for political gain speaks to a yearning for the candid, the genuine and the real. With building intensity, she describes the collusion between politicians and the mass media to limit decision-making power to a handful of target voters, and pushes the point with overwhelming detail.

It’s tempting to wax nostalgic for her more vivid and tangible fiction. However, her moral vision is as clear as her delivery, and the attention to detail that made her name is just powerful investigative reporting.

While the ticket price of $35 may be daunting, the organizers of the event hope to reach a broader audience through UCSD TV broadcasts of all Revelle Forum events. The Forum’s kickoff event in September featured the editor of Harper’s Bazaar, Lewis Lapham, and should appear on television this November.

Future speakers include David Rockefeller, the influential financier and philanthropist (Nov. 13), as well as British novelist A.S. Byatt (next quarter), known for the movie based on her book “”Possession.””

For tickets and direction to Oct. 15’s lecture, call (858) 534-3400. If you can’t see it live, watch for Didion’s talk on UCSD-TV or find “”Political Fictions”” (Knopf, 2001) at Geisel Library.