Issue 19: Joan Didion

Inside the Spring 2022 edition of Alta Journal.

alta cover, spring 2022, joan didion, julian wasser photo



sir francis drake
Steve Carroll

Sir Francis Drake’s Date with Destiny

Time may be up for the English explorer, whose 1579 landing forms a pivotal moment in the historical narrative of California—and beyond. By Peter C. Mancall • Illustrations by Steve Carroll

tupac shakur

Tupac in the Afterlife

Twenty-five years after his murder, Shakur looms larger than ever as new fans connect his lyrics and legacy to Black Lives Matter, social inequity, and poverty. By Santi Elijah Holley • Photos by Christina Gandolfo

bears deluxe by pixelmage

A Rat-Filled Casino

Drowsy apes and exorbitant prices were just the beginning. NFTs are stealing the spotlight and upending the art world. Their next trick: unlocking the metaverse. By Ajay Orona

a wild boar grazes on a hillside near castro valley, california
Gordon Wiltsie

California Is Hog Wild

The state’s bursting at the seams with invasive pigs, to the dismay of biologists, conservationists, and farmers everywhere. By Denise Hamilton • Photos by Gordon Wiltsie

wallace stegner, mary hallock foote

‘The Ways of Fiction Are Devious Indeed’

Finding current relevancy—and outrage—in the accusations of plagiarism that have long haunted a classic of the West: Wallace Stegner’s Angle of Repose. By Sands Hall • Illustrations by Thomas Ehretsmann

Joan Didion

joan didion
© Julian Wasser

Joan Didion’s Singular Voice

The late writer knew that stories sustain us—until they don’t. By David L. Ulin

joan didion primer


Seven essential books by the author. By David L. Ulin

didion map

Joan Didion’s California

Mapping some key spots that informed the author’s oeuvre. By Ava Liversidge and Eleanor Veitch

didion, her husband, john gregory dunne, and their daughter, quintana roo dunne, at their malibu beach house
John Bryson/Time Life Pictures/Getty Images

Trancas 1975

Childhood Sundays in Malibu—with a literary power couple as hosts—set a young writer on his path. By Karl Taro Greenfeld

doug aitken

Personal History: Doug Aitken

By Doug Aitken

didion with her nephew, the actor and filmmaker griffin dunne, in her new york apartment, october 2017
© Annie Leibovitz/Trunk Archive

Seven Minutes for Joan

Didion’s nephew, Griffin Dunne, remembers the gift of directing the acclaimed documentary Joan Didion: The Center Will Not Hold. By Griffin Dunne

ane crabtree

Personal History: Ane Crabtree

By Ane Crabtree

anthony perkins and tuesday weld in play it as it lays

The Pervasive Loneliness of Play It As It Lays

The 1972 film, much like the novel on which it is based, connects themes of longing and despair with our need to endure. By Lisa Kennedy

bret easton ellis

Personal History: Bret Easton Ellis

By Bret Easton Ellis

joan didion, annie leibovitz
© Annie Leibovitz/Trunk Archive

Planting a Tree is Not a Way of Life

Joan Didion’s profound and prescient commencement address to the UC Riverside class of 1975, which was found in the school archives in January. By Joan Didion

janelle brown

Personal History: Janelle Brown

By Janelle Brown

joan didion illustration, anita kunz

Joan Didion Explored the Undercurrents of Life with Clear-eyed Honesty

Illustration and text by Anita Kunz


kerjon lee of the los angeles county department of public works examines cloud seeding trees, an automatic high output ground seeding system, at the kinneloa facility in pasadena
ZUMA Press

Make It Rain

Cloud seeding sounds like science fiction, but it may become a useful tool to combat drought and lessen the risk of wildfires. By Joy Lanzendorfer

wild burros roam a residential neighborhood in moreno valley, california, where they graze on front lawns and shrubbery and drink water from sprinklers
Tod Seelie

Thirsty Burros

The herds of San Bernardino and Riverside Counties are caught up in the most western of troubles: the need for water. By Susan Straight • Photos by Tod Seelie

alta picks, contributors, side hustle

Alta Picks: The Side Hustles of Alta Contributors

syren nagakyrie
John Lok

Trailblazer: Syren Nagakyrie

Trekking toward an equitable outdoors. By Jessica Klein


foggy hills
David McNew

Poetry: ‘Friendship’

By John Freeman

justin richel interprets philip guston’s flatlands as a metaphor for the painter’s career, which was marked by a search for new modes of expression
© The Estate of Philip Guston, SAN FRANCISCO Museum of mODERN ART

Personal Favorite: The Gift of Freedom in Guston’s Flatlands

By Justin Richel

adornamented hot sauce bottles, teresa flores
© Teresa Flores

Ars Poetica

How I found kinship with poets writing about the culture of my hometown, Fresno.

By Teresa Flores

san francisco in fog

Poetry: ‘Fog Poem Number 71’

By Tongo Eisen-Martin

a rendering of frank gehry’s proposed multiuse building for the colburn school

Far More Than a Building

Frank Gehry is designing the Colburn School’s new concert hall. When finished, it will provide a much-needed performance space for students and for a burgeoning arts corridor in Downtown Los Angeles. By Joseph Giovannini • Photos by Christina Gandolfo

taro, karen tei yamashita, victor juhasz
Victor Juhasz

Fiction: ‘Taro’

By Karen Tei Yamashita • Illustrations by Victor Juhasz


ayodele nzinga was named the first poet laureate of oakland, california, in june 2021

She Who Remembers

As a playwright, an activist, and Oakland’s inaugural poet laureate, Ayodele Nzinga boldly forges new narratives from the Black diaspora. By Keenan Norris • Photos by Carolyn Fong

michael connelly, california book club
Dustin Snipes

Chasing Your Heroes

By Michael Connelly

Why You Should Read This: The Dark Hours

By David L. Ulin

maggie nelson, california book club
Dustin Snipes

Nothing Is Funnier Than Unhappiness

By Maggie Nelson

Why You Should Read This: The Argonauts

By David L. Ulin

steph cha, california book club
Dustin Snipes

The Long Con

By Steph Cha

Why You Should Read This: Your House Will Pay

By David L. Ulin

ada limon
Penni Gladstone

Poems of Lived Experience Backlit by Intimacy

Ada Limón’s new collection, The Hurting Kind, brims with sensory richness and shows her to be a lover of many things: animals, people, and love itself. By John Freeman • Photos by Penni Gladstone

In Every Issue

Editor’s Note: The Power to Discomfit

By Blaise Zerega



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