But since her death last December at age 87, her popularity has only seemed to grow, especially among young people, said Lisa Thomas, Stair’s director of fine arts.
“This young generation of 20- and 30-somethings who are really interested in what was happening culturally, artistically, in the late ‘60s and ‘70s, they’re all interested in her and they’re all reading her anew,” Thomas said.
“There are a lot of amazing writers from that period, but Didion seems to be the one that has really persisted. People carry around tote bags in New York City with Joan Didion’s face on it,” said Kelly Burdick, executive editor of the literary magazine Lapham’s Quarterly.
Burdick was one of thousands of people who turned out to see the items being sold in the days leading up to the auction.
“It’s so incredible to be in this space. To see it all. But just being here is goosebump inducing,” said Ellie Reid, 30, one recent afternoon. She had taken the day off from her job in Vermont and driven more than three hours to see the exhibition.
“I have all her books, and there are a couple that I leave one chapter unread because I don’t want to finish reading her and there’s not going to be anything else after that.”
Among the most poignant items sold yesterday was the small drop-leaf table where Dunne was sitting when he had a fatal heart attack in 2003, an event Didion wrote about in her much-celebrated treatise on grief, The Year of Magical Thinking. It sold for $4,250.
Didion suffered from Parkinson’s disease, and proceeds from the sale will go to Parkinson’s research and care at Columbia University and Columbia/Presbyterian Hospital, as well as to the Sacramento Historical Society, for the benefit of a scholarship fund for women writers at Sacramento City College.