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The Last Love Song: A Biography of Joan Didion

3.64  ·  Rating details ·  642 ratings  ·  132 reviews
In New York Times bestselling The Last Love Song, Tracy Daugherty, the critically acclaimed author of Hiding Man (a New Yorker and New York Times Notable book) and Just One Catch, delves deep into the life of distinguished American author and journalist Joan Didion in this, the first printed biography published about her life.

Joan Didion lived a life in the public and
Hardcover, 752 pages
Published August 25th 2015 by St. Martin's Press (first published May 12th 2015)
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Average rating 3.64  · 
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 ·  642 ratings  ·  132 reviews

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Nov 15, 2015 rated it did not like it
What do you call a Frankenstein's-monster patchwork of quotations from an array of other people's books and magazine articles, stitched together with appallingly bad, faux-novelistic prose? Well, if you're Tracy Daugherty, you call it "a literary biography." The few individuals the author managed to interview first-hand for this book include such critically important sources as the people who bought Didion's Brentwood house (they found it somewhat rundown) and a "former [movie] studio executive" ...more
Jul 22, 2017 rated it did not like it
Shelves: americans
Staggeringly bad, like something you'd read in Vanity Fair. Daugherty didn't have Didion's cooperation - but Didion is a singular stylist who has written plenty of memoirs, and Daugherty was able to consult her drafts in the Bancroft Library. That should have been enough to produce something more substantial than this. Daugherty is not resourceful or imaginative in his choice of filler (if you find Dominick Dunne's spat with Frank Sinatra and taste in bachelor pad decor matters of compelling ...more
Hank Stuever
Nov 08, 2017 rated it liked it
I originally passed on reading this, because I was, after so many years, kind of Joaned-out, and also people said there was nothing much new in it, which is indeed true -- if you've made a habit of deeply reading and knowing what there is to know about Joan Didion, there are very few fresh revelations here.

But I did read the book, and it took forever. (Kind of funny how a book about a writer known for her spareness and conciseness can manage to weigh in at 500-plus pages -- and very dense pages
Sep 05, 2015 marked it as could-not-finish
I couldn't finish this book. It was just way too much information for me. I wanted more of Didion's life and less about the technicalities of writing.
Jul 21, 2015 marked it as to-read
New Republic

God, this looks good.
Anthony Crupi
Jul 16, 2015 rated it it was ok
Every hour devoted to this write-around was another hour stolen from the time I have left to revisit all the writing that made me a Didion acolyte in the first place.
Nov 25, 2015 rated it liked it
Shelves: 2015
I'm not 100% sure why I read this book, which is a fair description of how I felt while I was reading it. I ploughed through it because I borrowed it from the library, and there were holds on it. Maybe I would have enjoyed it more if I had picked it up when the mood struck me.

As many reviewers have pointed out, Joan Didion did not participate in the writing of this biography, nor did any of her close friends or family. The biographer's materials are chiefly Joan Didion's published writing and
May 18, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: audiobooks
This book made me buy a giant pair of sunglasses and a vintage dress from Hawaii. And then I got a migraine. The transformation is complete. Plus, JOAN DIDION WEARS UGGS--I feel vindicated.

This book exposed some of my expectations of the biography genre. I expect interesting details about a person's life, insight into their work and public persona, and historical background of their life and times woven together with it all. I would say that this book delivered for the most part, but also had
Judy G
Sep 06, 2015 rated it it was amazing
I cannot say enough compliments about this biography by Tracy Daugherty. It is Outstanding and should be a model for other biographers. Joan is a product of the various eras and places where she has lived. Tracy includes all of that covering events of sixties and seventies and current and life in NYC and in Los Angeles. He tells her story with objectivity and it is stark. She was a mixed bag and mostly admired. It is also about her husbands family - the Dunnes and her daughter with a bizarre ...more
Jaclyn Day
Aug 08, 2015 rated it liked it
Early on, Daugherty notes that this will be a literary biography. (Also mentions he doesn’t do “dishy” biographies.) I’m fine with both those things. But–reader be warned–he wasn’t kidding about the literary part. While a very fine biography, it’s clear that the distance from the subject hurt the end result. Daugherty interprets and theorizes about her work vs. her life almost frantically from afar, perhaps making up for the fact that Didion (and her close friends, supposedly) did not cooperate ...more
Chris Roberts
Aug 10, 2015 rated it did not like it
Joan's worldview: The Cosmos of Me

The molecular composition of the universe
and on earth every mountain and forest
too the granular deserts and ocean shores
stretching unexceptional, all exist
only as I allow them to be
I am outside the common restraints
of mortal men
God is locked away in a Book
the gaping sky is merely constructed to serve
as one, two, three seconds of optical diversion
the sun I permit its existence
in order to frame me out in silhouette.

Mourn myself only, always, forget Nero
Sep 19, 2015 rated it really liked it
Shelves: modern-lit, biography
A fine biography of one of my favourite writers. Very good on both the literary world of early 1960s NYC and the landscape and culture of two very different Californias--- the "Inland Empire" around Sacramento and the Hollywood of the 1970s. If I have a criticism, it's only that Daughtery needed to spend more time on Didion's developing prose style and on a "literary" analysis of her novels.
Oct 16, 2015 rated it did not like it
I stopped reading this about 400 pages in. I wanted this to be something that it wasn't- a biography written by Walter Isaacson with Didion's cooperation. Instead, this was a biography not authorized by Didion and a regurgitation of quotes from her novels, interviews, etc.

Don't waste your time.
Oct 01, 2015 rated it it was ok
2.5 Skip the bio. Read all of Joan's work instead. You will end up with the same amount of info about Ms. Didion and skip spending weeks reading 500+ pages of great quotes from her work intermixed with filler.
Aug 07, 2015 rated it really liked it
Well written biography of the life of Joan Didion. There was so much I learned that I had not known before. I will recommend this to all fans of Joan Didion. Won via Goodreads Giveaway.
Jill Meyer
Jul 30, 2019 rated it it was amazing
The author Joan Didion has always seemed to be fragile. Physically fragile, emotionally fragile, and, probably, literary fragile. Her writing seemed to careen between "precious" and "tough" - often in the same book or magazine article. Married to the author John Gregory Dunne, they were the parents of an adopted daughter they rather fancifully named "Quintana Roo", after their favorite place in Mexico. Didion lost both husband and daughter in the mid-2000's and wrote about the searing ...more
Sep 22, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: ebooks, reviewed
An absorbing Comprehensive authoritative 728 page “The Last Love Song” is the biography of Joan Didion authored by Tracy Daugherty. The book also highlights the Dunne family, who were also known as the Kennedy’s of Hartford. The changing times of American culture between the 1960’s and beyond is extensively covered, as is Didion’s cultural, political, literary criticism and essay throughout the book.

As an intelligent child, Joan Didion (1934-) had a strong sense of her Sacramento, California
Aug 07, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Much like Joan, Tracy is master of revealing his subject's underbelly. This bio is, quite simply, a reminder of what it means to be woman, writer, human.

Jun 15, 2017 rated it really liked it
Definitely honours the subject in both content and quality of writing
Lee Kofman
Apr 07, 2019 rated it liked it
I was so looking forward to reading Joan Didion’s first ever biography, but unfortunately the book didn’t do for me what I hoped it would. It offered a reasonably good literary analysis of, and context for, her entire oeuvre – this for me was the highlight of this biography. But there was very little there on her writing process and the sources of her inspiration which is something I came to expect from good literary biographies (having read many books in this genre). The largest flaw of the ...more
Feb 13, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Recommended to Sull by: library find
Marvellous in-depth exploration of Didion and her world as she grew into one of the literary-political taste-makers of the 60, 70s, 80s. I was never one of her big fans, but found her non-fiction always interesting to read. Such an odd mix of hiding and revealing of her own opinions and angst, the writing shy yet authoritative, pained yet peevish....

And this biography is what the Joni Mitchell book purported to be, an analysis of the "life and times", but this is the real deal, where Daughterty
Sep 10, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Extraordinary chronicling of American psychoses about a chronicler of American psychoses. This is about Joan Didion's life and times, the latter in particular. I haven't learnt so much from a book with such enjoyment in years. So many astounding passages and lines underlined, corners of pages folded over to get quickly to some remarkable observation or fact. From the drug-addled hippie sixties to Hollywood murders, the Kennedy assassinations and the Vietnam War, followed by Richard Nixon, Patty ...more
Sep 28, 2015 rated it liked it
I've never properly bonded with Didion as a person or writer, and I have tried over time and many a time. Too dispassionate a voice, I think. You feel the remove and yet, according to this biography, she cries often. I'm not asking her to bleed on the page, just to get the sense she is also part of this experience. I never took to her husband's writing, at all, and yet I loved reading her brother-in-law, just to see how many names he could drop in one paragraph. Since I have read all of Didion ...more
May 23, 2015 rated it really liked it
Not a reader of Didion, I was nonetheless taken with this book, which is a history of California, of Hollywood, of political and international events. It's a look at how one makes a living as a writer. It is an inside look at publishing - books, journalism, screenplays. I was reminded of news events from the late 1950's onward and I got behind-the-scenes looks at how the news is told to us.
Jun 01, 2017 rated it it was ok
Better to read Didion than to read about someone else reading Didion.
Aug 26, 2015 rated it it was amazing
I can't imagine one who is even in the faintest of ways obsessed with Joan Didion avoiding this book. Drop down, drag out must.
Not a bad read, but nothing that anyone who has read Didion's own books -- or a few stories about her -- would find too interesting. Well written, but ultimately, nothing that makes it a "wow."
Aug 18, 2015 rated it liked it
Good,solid First Biography...short on scandalous gossip and long on appreciation of the work...
Dec 29, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Daugherty's biography of the author and critic Joan Didion has everything that one hopes for in a biography. While a large book it is filled with detail not only about her life, but also how her life relates to her work. He also provides context for everyone who is part of Didion's life introducing them as they enter the text and explaining who they were, and how they affected Didion and her husband John Gregory Dunne.

"It was a descendent's duty to preserve the elders in the form of
Alex Clark
Jan 23, 2018 rated it really liked it
Some readers have complained about the Daugherty's use of Didion's work as a framework for this memoir, but I think that may be one of its greatest strengths. Here, Didion is studied as writer and as person, with both being intimately intertwined with a stunning cultural context. It is a long haul, but a good one, a book that gave me a better understanding of Didion as a keen cultural observer, flaws and all. I would definitely recommend this to anyone interested in the literary landscape of ...more
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