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Stephen Carlton

Stephen Carlton

January 1, 1943 - February 7, 2022

Former Shasta County District Attorney Stephen Carlton, who served twice as the county's top prosecutor, has died.

Carlton passed away Feb. 7 in Redding at the age of 79.

His wife of 50 years, Terri, said Carlton struggled the past two years with Parkinson's disease and Lewy body dementia, the same disease that comedian Robin Williams suffered from.

Carlton had been living in a memory-care center in Redding the past 10 months, Terri Carlton said.

Carlton was first elected as Shasta County's district attorney in 1981 and served until 1990. He successfully ran for the post again in 2011 and retired in December 2016.

"In his nearly 50-year law career, Carlton made a lasting impact on Shasta County and will be missed by many in the office," current District Attorney Stephanie Bridgett said on Facebook.

"Carlton was a well-regarded defense attorney, prosecutor and district attorney in Shasta County," Bridgett said. "I’ve known him both professionally and personally my entire career and have many fond memories of him. ... He had a lasting impact in his service as district attorney."

On his retirement, Carlton recommended that Bridgett take over the DA's post when she was the chief deputy district attorney.

In a 2016 Record Searchlight interview, Carlton said he tried about 350 cases before a jury during his 24 years as a prosecutor — 16 of them as the elected DA — and 25 years as a defense attorney.

Shasta County District Attorney Stephanie Bridgett, left, appears with Stephen Carlton in March 2016. Carlton died Feb. 7 at the age of 79.

Terri Carlton described her husband as a great family man who loved his two children and three grandchildren. She said he also adored his parents, who grew up in Redding.

Carlton was raised in Redding but was born in San Francisco. "His mother went to San Francisco to have her babies," she said.

Terri Carlton said personally, her husband was a kind person who treated everyone fairly.

"He was a people person. He thought everyone was good," she said. "Professionally he felt everyone deserved a fair and just look at their particular case."

As district attorney, she said Carlton wanted to give defendants a chance at rehabilitation over automatic prison time, especially first-time offenders.

"He would always tell me, 'I have to look at myself in the mirror every morning and live with my decisions,'" she said. "His campaign platform was justice for all."

Remembering Stephen Carlton

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Marty Morgenstern

Marty Morgenstern

November 9, 1934 - February 5, 2022

Marty Morgenstern, who spent a career dedicated to labor issues and was a close advisor to former Gov. Jerry Brown, died last week at his home in a suburb of Sacramento. He was 87.

Friends and family said that Morgenstern, who stepped down as secretary of the California Labor and Workforce Development Agency in 2013, died of complications related to Parkinson's disease.

Few advisors served Brown longer or with more loyalty than Morgenstern, a New York City native whose relationship with the Democratic governor spanned more than 50 years. In an interview, Brown said Morgenstern was one of the most intelligent and straightforward people he's ever known.

"He was one of the few whose advice you could always rely on," Brown said. "Because if he wasn’t sure, he would tell you.

When Brown returned to serve a third term as governor in 2011, one of his first appointments was Morgenstern as secretary of the Labor and Workforce Development Agency.

Morgenstern's tenure lasted almost three years. When he left the administration, he told The Times that his theory of government could be explained in just three sentences: “We never have enough money. We’ve always got to be careful with the money we spend. And, always make sure you spend the minimum amount of money to get the job done.”

In his stint as labor secretary, Morgenstern helped Brown twist arms in the Legislature for a far-reaching overhaul of California's workers' compensation program in 2012. And he was a key negotiator in Brown's effort that year to revamp public employee pension rules, a trimming of future benefits that was a hard sell among many in organized labor. One key provision, requiring negotiations to set some of the new employee contribution rates, was in line with Morgenstern's own long belief in settling important labor issues through collective bargaining.

Julie Su, who was recruited by Morgenstern to serve as California's labor commissioner in 2011, said perhaps even more lasting was his commitment to reshaping state labor law in an effort to crack down on wage theft. She said she had warned Morgenstern that the effort to help low-income workers would not be easy and would mean taking on some powerful business interests.


Remembering Marty Morgenstern

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E "Howard" Long

E "Howard" Long

March 6, 1937 - January 25, 2022

E "Howard" Long passed away on Jan 25, 2022 from a battle with Parkinson's. 

He was a graduate of Purdue University and The University of Louisville. He spent over 30 years in teaching and administration in Arlington County, VA. He was later a Commissioner in the City of La Quinta, CA. He was honored with a proclamation and retired in 2019.

He was a member of La Chaine des Rotisseurs and had great love of wine. He traveled extensively throughout France and Italy and moved into wine sales after retirement.

He wanted a pet and had read about Sealyhams Terriers. At a show he went into a tent to meet a Sealyham. He was sold. He had one or two by his side for the rest of his life.

The GQ photo was just a request for a portrait. He went all out and brought Harry with him in his red tux tie. The photographer was thrilled that he did not want one of those "sitting" photos and thus gave him a chance to be creative.

He is survived by Carol and Maddie of La Quinta, CA.

Remembering E "Howard" Long

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Horace MacVaugh

Horace MacVaugh

August 26, 1930 - January 24, 2022

Horace MacVaugh III was born August 26, 1930 in Philadelphia to Blanche G. Newman and Horace MacVaugh Jr. He died at home in Wayne, PA on January 24, 2022. Horace is survived by his wife Carol Ann MacVaugh nee Burns; daughter Leslie Demmert nee MacVaugh (Paul); son Horace MacVaugh IV (Catherine Vayda); son-in-law Mark Cheshire; sister Janice Kopple nee MacVaugh; mother of his children Suzanne Hollis MacVaugh nee Lapp; Grandchildren Jennifer Demmert Hardwick, Shannon Demmert Puri, Peter Arthur Plantier, Kate Hollis Plantier, Madeline Anne MacVaugh, Horace MacVaugh V, Hollis Frost MacVaugh, 5 greatgrandchildren and two nieces, Kimberly Kopple (Craig Conover) and Kristin Kopple (Archangelo Guida), He was preceded in death by his daughters Anne Carol MacVaugh and Hollis MacVaugh Cheshire. Education was an important part of Horace’s life. He graduated from Cheltenham High School then located in Elkins Park, PA in 1948 and was inducted into Alumni Hall of Fame 1999. He graduated from Yale University, class of 1952 with a B.S. in Zoology and University of Pennsylvania Medical School, class of 1955 with his M.D. He was inducted into Alpha Omega Alpha Honorary Medical Society. His chosen profession was as a cardiothoracic surgeon, and he was board certified in General Surgery. He was Professor of Surgery, University of Pennsylvania until 1988; Professor of Surgery, Jefferson Medical College of Thomas Jefferson University until 1990; Chairman of Department of Surgery, Lankenau Hospital, 1978-1986; Chief, Division of Cardiothoracic Surgery, The Graduate Hospital,1986 to 1990. He performed the first coronary artery bypass surgery at the University of Pennsylvania Hospital. He was accepted into NASA’s astronaut training program but elected to continue his career in cardiothoracic surgery. In 1956, Horace began a 30+ year military career when he entered active duty in the U.S. Navy with the rank of Lieutenant at Naval Air Station Pensacola, FL. He served at Hickam Air Field and Barbers Point NAS, Territory of Hawaii, performing duties as a naval flight surgeon in transport squadrons. He continued to serve in the US Navy Reserve at Willow Grove NAS and was promoted to the rank Rear Admiral, US Naval Reserve Medical Corps in 1986. Throughout his life, Horace had a wide variety of interests, skills, and hobbies. He was a long-time member of The Union League of Philadelphia, The Church of the Holy Trinity, The St. Andrews Society of Philadelphia, Gulph Mills Golf Club, Merion Cricket Club, Racquet Club of Philadelphia, Right Angle Club, Pennsylvania Falconry and Hawk Trust, and Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association. Horace enjoyed an active life playing golf, skiing, riding the cresta in St. Moritz, climbing 18,500’ peak Kala Pitar in the Himalayas; he was a licensed private and commercial pilot. He was an avid woodworker, enjoyed the Philadelphia Orchestra, ice dance at Old York Road Skating Club, Wissahickon Skating Club. He participated in many Bohemian Grove summer events, and was interested in long distance vintage automobile races. He was an avid sailor and captained sailboats across the Virgin Islands and the Grenadines.

Remembering Horace MacVaugh

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Michael Richard Clifton

Michael Richard Clifton

October 13, 1952 - December 28, 2021

An astronaut who flew into space without telling NASA that he had Parkinson's disease has died aged 69.

Michael “Rich” Clifford, flew on three space shuttle missions, having chosen to become an astronaut in 1990 with NASA.

According to, he joined the corps three years after being assigned by the U.S. Army to NASA's Johnson Space Centre in Houston, where he was serving as a space shuttle vehicle integration engineer at the time of his selection.

His death was confirmed on Tuesday by the Association of Space Explorers (ASE), of which he was a life member.

His first flight took place on December 2, 1992, which was a classified mission on the Discovery space shuttle for the Department of Defense.

It was a week-long flight, which conducted medical studies on the effects of microgravity on cells from bone tissue, muscles and blood.

His second flight took place on April 9, 1994, where he became one of the crew operating the Space Radar Laborator.

It was this mission where he flow with his Parkinson's a secret.

However, he wanted to fly once more, and informed NASA's medical staff and his commander ahead of his third mission, in March 1996.

He was monitored throughout his training, but as his symptoms never interfered with his preparations for the tasks he was given the green light to fly.

He returned to Earth on March 31, 1996, and resigned from the astronaut corps and NASA in January 1997,

The California native spent, in total, 27 days, 18 hours and 24 minutes in space while completing 443 orbits of Earth.

He is survived by his wife, Nancy Elizabeth (née Brunson), and their two sons, Richard and Brandon.


Remembering Michael Richard Clifton

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Jonathan Spence

Jonathan Spence

August 11, 1936 - December 25, 2021

Jonathan Spence ’65 Ph.D., Sterling Professor Emeritus of History, whose scholarship shaped the field of China studies for half a century, died Dec. 25 at home in West Haven, Connecticut of complications from Parkinson’s disease. He was 85.

President Peter Salovey, noting the community’s loss, called him “unsurpassed as scholar and teacher,” and Richard C. Levin, president of Yale from 1993 to 2013, spoke of him as “a towering figure, a scholar of unique insight and imagination.”

Spence transformed and popularized the study of China in the United States and across the world. Galvanized at first by the idea of China in the 17th century, he went on to write 14 books that spanned the entirety of modern Chinese history, among them “The Search for Modern China” (1990).

His gift was to blend scrupulous archival research with literary flair to create narratives that illuminate the vibrancy of human lives in a foreign land. When he started writing in the 1960s, the American eye was not on China. With a novelist’s aptitude for character, detail, and pace, he brought the sweep of a distant civilization to life. His narrative gift made him what Peter Perdue, professor emeritus of history, called a “master craftsman” who “created a new amalgam of biography, documentary, literature, and drama.”

Born in England in 1936, Jonathan Dermot Spence was one of four children of a family immersed in art, literature, and publishing. He had his secondary schooling at Winchester, where he won the history prize. He did military service for two years in Germany and then went up to Clare College Cambridge, where he coedited the highly regarded literary magazine Granta.

Spence always said he was a “convert” to Chinese history. It was as an exchange student on a Mellon Fellowship at Yale that — after years of focusing on European history — he became mesmerized by a course on China taught by Mary Wright, who had been a student of John Fairbank at Harvard and who had recently arrived at Yale, with her husband Arthur, from Stanford. Wright became Spence’s mentor and introduced him to the distinguished bibliographer and historian Fang Chao-ying, whose support helped him gain access to papers in Taiwan from the Qing dynasty.

“Ts’ao Yin and the K’ang-Hsi Emperor: Bondservant and Master,” Spence’s Yale dissertation and first book, written with the assistance of special access to archival materials in Taiwan, created a nuanced portrait of Ts’ao Yin, the servant, spy, and bondservant to the Manchu emperor. Ts’ao Yin served as a lens for viewing the whole of Chinese society during the dynasty, animated brilliantly by Spence.

This early work, published in 1966, had all the hallmarks of what would follow: fascinating characters, rich use of detail, and an intriguing tale told with a storyteller’s art. In many other books to come, Spence succeeds, as Mark Elliott, a professor of Chinese and Inner Asian history at Harvard and former Spence student, has said, in “demystifying China and the Chinese past, and making it intelligible, relevant and meaningful to people.”

Generations of readers have wept while reading the poignant fate of Woman Wang in “The Death of Woman Wang” (1978) and become caught up in following the dramatic story of the Jesuit priest who set out from Italy to bring Christian faith and Western thought to Ming dynasty China in “The Memory Palace of Matteo Ricci” (1984). They have wondered over the fate of the Chinese widower from Canton and the way that his fate illuminated the differences between China and the West in “The Question of Hu” and sympathized with Zhang Dai who spent the second part of his life obsessively recording the texture of the vanished Ming dynasty of his youth in “Return to Dragon Mountain: Memories of a Late Ming.” In all of these books, while telling mesmerizing stories of particular people in particular circumstances experiencing complex and extraordinary events, Spence manages not only to convey a sense of China and its civilization, but also of our place as humans in the world.

Spence’s best-known work, “The Search for Modern China,” developed from the lectures in his celebrated Chinese history course at Yale, begins with the Ming dynasty and covers four centuries. It has been the cornerstone of college-level teaching of Chinese history since its publication. The term “textbook,” however, would give the wrong impression of a masterpiece in which Spence makes the search for China a quest for depicting a complex culture packed with upheaval and personalities.

For generations of students, the “Modern China” course, simply known among undergraduates as “Spence,” was considered a rite of passage for Yalies who heard from one another that it would open their eyes to a fascinating country and civilization and give them a new global perspective. So popular was it that students had to be admitted in cohorts: senior majors in Chinese, Japanese, history, and East Asian studies on day one; junior majors in the same on day two; and everyone else, as far as the room would hold, on day three. Ultimately the university gave up trying to find a classroom and the course was moved to Battell Chapel, which holds 850.

As Janet Chen, now professor of history at Princeton University, describes, “With a single sheet of hand scribbled notes, Spence could hold an auditorium of undergraduates spellbound” with lectures that were as engaging and illuminating as short stories. Another student remarked, he could “catch the essence,” as Spence sometimes himself described it, of people and of historical moments so they “lit up like lightning bugs in a jar.”

Some legendary lecturers achieve greatness through their theatricality. This was not Spence. Slowly, patiently, and in a quiet voice, he fashioned his lectures with narratives as rich as those in fiction, always embedding a larger point about the culture and society of China within them. Students would sit rapt, and then leave the lectures and excitedly discuss them over lunch in the colleges.

It would be hard to overestimate the influence of “Modern China”: from it, students who are now out in the world have gained a deeper understanding of China that has served them as journalists, politicians, ambassadors, teachers, poets, actors, entrepreneurs, and simply as knowledgeable citizens.

As one of the most influential professors of Chinese history in the world, Spence also attracted a distinguished cohort of graduate students who are now contributing to scholarship and carrying on his legacy throughout the academy — from Harvard, Princeton, and Columbia to the University of Chicago, Cornell, Dartmouth, Cambridge, the Chinese University of Hong Kong and many other colleges and universities. Immediately after he died the internet flared with remembrances of him from Chinese scholars and students at distinguished Chinese universities, including Tsinghua and Beida, where Yale has shared a Ph.D. exchange program for graduate students.

For his pathbreaking work, Spence received many accolades. He was a MacArthur Fellow and the recipient of eight honorary degrees, including those from his alma mater, Cambridge, and, in the same year, from Oxford. He was appointed to the C.M.G. (Companion of the Most Distinguished Order of St. Michael and St. George) on the Queen of England’s Birthday Honours List. He served a term as the president of the American Historical Association. In 2010 he was asked to give the Jefferson Lecture, the most prestigious honor the U.S. federal government bestows for achievement in the humanities. At Yale, undergraduates chose him for the coveted DeVane Medal for scholarship and teaching.

A popular figure in a university he loved, Spence was admired not only for his exemplary scholarship, teaching, and dedication to students, but also for his warmth, humility, and integrity. For years he had an office in Timothy Dwight College, where he was a faithful fellow. He regularly attended Yale College faculty meetings, an astute and interested observer of university politics and people. He and his wife Annping Chin, a senior lecturer in history who retired in 2018, entertained many from China and all over the world at superb dinners in their West Haven home, where they also created a beautiful garden.

In addition to his wife, Spence is survived by a brother, Nicholas; two sons from his first marriage, to Helen Alexander, Colin and Ian; a stepdaughter, Mei Chin; a stepson, Yar Woo; a grandson; and two step-granddaughters. 


Remembering Jonathan Spence

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Joseph Matthew Serpa

Joseph Matthew Serpa

January 1, 1944 - December 24, 2021

Serpa, Joseph M., 77, of West Warwick, passed away peacefully on Friday, December 24, 2021 after a long struggle with Parkinson's Disease. 

He was the devoted husband of State Representative Patricia A. (Petrarca) Serpa for 36 years. Born in Providence, he was the son of the late Joseph and Dorothy (Silva) Serpa. He was the cherished son-in-law of Constance and the late Adolph Petrarca.

Joseph graduated from Hope High School in 1962 and went on to serve in the Providence Fire Department for thirty-two years, retiring in 1999 as the Dispatch Lieutenant at the Bureau of Operational Control. He was never boastful but Joe was extremely proud of his Fox Point roots and for having been awarded the PFD Badge #1 in 1996 for his dignified and professional service to the residents of Providence.

Joseph enjoyed golf, the casino, music, and old movies. He cheerfully planned and organized annual golf vacations for large groups of fellow firefighters for more than twenty years.

In addition to his wife, he was the much-loved stepdad of Domenic DiMasi and was affectionately called “Papa Joe” by grandson Gabriele DiMasi. He also leaves his sisters and brothers-in-law Lester and Linda Petrarca and Joanne and Robert Diggins. He leaves several nieces and a nephew. We have all lost a good man.

Remembering Joseph Matthew Serpa

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Herve Champagne, Jr.

Herve Champagne, Jr.

June 22, 1934 - December 24, 2021

Herve Urbain Champagne, Jr., age 87, passed away the morning of December 24, 2021 after a battle with Parkinson’s disease.

Herve was born on June 22, 1934 in West Warwick, RI to Herve and Bernadette (Pelletier) Champagne. After graduating from La Salle Academy in 1951 he served in the United States Air Force during the Korean War and earned a Bachelor of Science degree in Accounting from Bryant University in 1959. 

Herve retired from his position as Chief of Field Audit for the State of Rhode Island Division of Taxation in 1996 after 28 years of service. He also served on the Supervisory Committee, and later the Board of Directors, of the Rhode Island Credit Union for 30 years, until the time of his death.

From 1971 to 1976, Herve also turned his favorite dessert into a business as the owner of Dairy Jim, an ice cream shop on McElroy Street in West Warwick. The shop included several trucks that traveled routes throughout Kent County, often with one or more of Herve’s children on board.

An avid golfer, Herve also enjoyed trips to Foxwoods Casino, weekly lunches with his best friend Roy LaCroix, meals at his beloved Twin Oaks, and visits from his children and grandchildren.

Herve was well-loved not only by his family and friends but also by the staff at the Green House Homes at the Saint Elizabeth Community, where he spent the final months of his life. He was well known for his jovial, joking manner and the occasional serenade to the staff who cared for him.

Herve is survived by younger brother Robert Champagne and sister-in-law Pauline Champagne of Coventry, son Thomas Champagne of Asheville, North Carolina; daughter Suzanne Champagne of North Kingstown; son David Champagne of Coventry; son Marc Champagne and daughter-in-law Shiela Champagne of West Hartford, Connecticut; and daughter Mary Champagne and son-in-law Geoffrey Gessner of Baltimore, Maryland. He was also the proud Pépère to grandchildren Evan Chaffey and his wife Val Wilkins; Steven, Jessica, and Austin Gibree; Luc and Mathieu Champagne, and Everett and Ah’leah Companie.

Inurnment with military honors in RI Veterans Memorial Cemetery, Exeter.

Remembering Herve Champagne, Jr.

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Joan Didion

Joan Didion

December 5, 1934 - December 23, 2021

The writing of Joan Didion, who has died 87, was mantra-like, mannered, even “set in its own modulations” (that was Martin Amis’s snipe). It was also unique and remarkable. Even the shape of her books was uncommon, the sentences spaced on pages as tall and narrow as king-sized cigarette packets.

She had practiced that incantatory style since her mother had presented her, aged five, with a notebook and a suggestion that she calm her anxious self by writing. Her family had long been settled in California, then chiefly an agricultural state, a location that mattered to Didion’s story, and to her story-telling.

She was born in Sacramento, the daughter of Eduene (nee Jerrett) and Frank Didion, a finance officer with the US army, poker player, and, after the second world war, a real estate dealer. Joan was an army brat on her father’s stations, and her juvenile fantasies set out in that notebook were doomy – death in the desert, suicide in the surf.

The only printed influence on her work she ever cited was Ernest Hemingway, as she had typed out his prose in order to master the keyboard and his syntax: the exact placement of words was the basis of her style as it had been of his. “Grammar is a piano I play by ear,” she claimed. Studying English literature at the University of California, Berkeley, taught her to audit meaning, dissect language and triangulate evidence, and modified her original ambition, acting, into writing as performance.

Didion won Vogue’s Prix de Paris contest in 1956, and was rewarded with a copywriter’s job, dogsbodying with proximity to glamour, in New York, rising to associate features editor over eight years at Condé Nast. She said later that she had been in love with the city’s promise, excited by meeting whoever was in town — models, millionaires, magnates — but had remained an exiled westerner not at home in New York. With a portable typewriter perched on a chair in her almost empty apartment, she wrote a novel about the Californian rivers she so missed.

Those waterways are the real lead in her first novel, Run River (1963). John Gregory Dunne, a staffer on Time magazine and also a self-declared outsider, edited it. They married in 1964, and moved to Los Angeles temporarily, sure that his older brother, the producer Dominick Dunne, would be their entree to screenwriting. That scenario did not quite play out, and both had to turn to magazine journalism for an income.

Didion categorized some of her essays, with their first-person viewpoint and fiction-like fine detail, as “Personals”, but in fact they were about the world as seen by a social and political conservative from the last American generation to identify with adults. A tiny, unnerved and unnerving figure behind vast dark glasses, she was derisive of lax language and dismissive of unformed thought on both the left and right. She did not care to negotiate interviews with stars via their press agents.

She believed she could pass unnoticed anywhere: among the residue of the Hollywood studios and the creatives of the new music business; in arid valley towns and LA’s dustier districts; around the coagulating hippy counterculture in San Francisco. Her descriptions of her crippling social anxiety, her inability to make a phone call to get an assignment under way, did not accord with others’ memories of her taking laps of the room at swelegant parties.

Didion’s first book of collected journalism, Slouching Towards Bethlehem, published in 1968, the year in which she had a breakdown, established her reputation for cool and very slowly became a cult: as the writer Caitlin Flanagan remembered, Didion “had fans – not the way writers have fans, but the way musicians and actors have fans – and almost all of them were female”. That coolness was confirmed by her second novel, Play It As It Lays (1970), with its zomboid leading woman on Hollywood’s perimeter, so chilled a fiction that Didion’s editor, Henry Robbins, called her to ask if she was all right.

Possibly not, but she was getting by. The next year the couple had their first script onscreen, The Panic in Needle Park, and then their 1972 adaptation of Play It As It Lays flopped. Didion’s literary identity became clearer than that of her husband, with whom she shared preoccupations and phrasing, which added edge to their joint 1976 refettling of A Star Is Born to Barbra Streisand’s specifications.

Didion continued the essays, more personal yet, collected in 1979 as The White Album, and developed an idea she had had when trapped by paratyphoid in a hotel room during a Colombian film festival into A Book of Common Prayer (1977), her first fictional engagement with the role and image of the US in Central and Latin America.

At that point all the elements were in play that recurred in her fact and fiction. There was her concentration on the Americas – she had visited Europe and Israel, but disclaimed interest in them – and on the Hispanic influx into the US, which, as a Californian, she was aware of very early. Her books of reportage, El Salvador (1982) - “One morning at the breakfast table I was reading the newspaper and it just didn’t make sense,” she wrote of US press coverage of Salvador’s internal war, and immediately flew there to inspect the body dumps – and Miami (1987), were descriptions of equal and opposite cultural misunderstandings.

She felt that the US political process had become self-contained, exclusive of the electorate and, from the presidency of Ronald Reagan onwards, of reality itself – as depicted in the essays anthologised in After Henry (1992) and Political Fictions (2001) and her occasional 21st century pieces. This perception also fed into her best and most successful novel, Democracy (1984), which could be read as a romance, or – as was also true of her 1996 novel The Last Thing He Wanted – as an exploration of private connections to public power. The political could not have been made more personal.

The greater constant in Didion’s work, though, was the intersection of public and private mood with place – Hawaii febrile in tropical rain, Los Angeles fractious as the Santa Ana winds blew through. Readers came to know the homes she had passed through – the Malibu beach premises on the edge of the fire season burn zone, the “house in a part of Hollywood that had once been expensive and was now described as a ‘senseless killing neighbourhood’”, the Manhattan apartment with the Cy Twombly artwork, plus a travel itinerary of grand hotels.

They became even more familiar with the older California that she kept recalling all the way up to her memoir Where I Was From (2003), in which she finally admitted that her apprehension of her native state had been a misapprehension, an “enchantment under which I lived my life”. It was not the place she had thought it, and it never had been, all the way back to the settlers’ wagon trains and their encounters with rattlesnakes.

By then, she seemed to feel that reality was dispelling all enchantments from her life. The lives of Didion and Dunne had been mostly funded by their remunerative rewrites for the screen, although their joint “implied promise of quality” had been delivered in the adaption of Dunne’s novel True Confessions (1981), and rather less so in a prolonged project, Up Close and Personal, filmed in 1996 as a vehicle for Robert Redford.

They supported each other in public over their career compromises, but there had been fights and near-splits in the marriage. They once holidayed in the Royal Hawaian hotel “in lieu of filing for divorce”, and Dunne left to live alone in Vegas for a while when it was his turn for a breakdown. But it had survived, stronger than a mutual defence pact. Dunne died of a heart attack at their dinner table in Manhattan in 2003, a sudden exit that Didion described in The Year of Magical Thinking (2005), her book of grief and disbelief. It was critically admired for its honesty and clarity, and adapted for the stage.

Didion delayed Dunne’s funeral until their daughter Quintana had recovered from the pneumonia and septic shock that had put her into hospital intensive care. But her recovery was brief and Quintana died just before the book’s publication. Didion and Dunne had adopted the baby on the day of her birth in 1966, and called her after a Mexican state. She became a familiar player in their pieces, often quoted, described as an insouciant user of hotel room service when accompanying her mother on book tours.

In Blue Nights (2011), Didion suggested quite another story of Quintana as a Hollywood child who feared abandonment, was suicidal, diagnosed as manic depressive, and in adulthood had had difficult encounters with her birth family. However, the true subject of Blue Nights was Didion, alone and a long way from California; there could be no going back to places so changed. Her last works, South and West (2017) and Let Me Tell You What I Mean (2021) collected her “field notes” and early writing.

Veronica Horwell

The Guardian 


Remembering Joan Didion

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Dr. David Patrick Liebel

Dr. David Patrick Liebel

November 9, 1950 - December 21, 2021

Missed by everyone who knew him.

Remembering Dr. David Patrick Liebel

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Updated: August 16, 2017