Joan Didion's uncollected works
April 30, 2013 11:21 PM   Subscribe

How can I assemble a complete list of Joan Didion's uncollected works?

Joan Didion has spent her career writing for magazines as varied as Vogue, Saturday Evening Post, and The New Yorker, among others, undoubtedly including some I have not even considered. I want to read through them all, eventually, and the first step is knowing what they are.

If you were trying to assemble a master list of these works - her writing not collected in Slouching Toward Bethlehem, the White Album, or her other books of essays - what would you do?

Thus far I have cold-contacted, by email, the agency that represents her. You will all be shocked to learn that I have received no response.

I have also considered writing a letter of inquiry to various publications, though this would not capture articles published in those with which I am unfamiliar.

What other approach should I consider? It seems kind of insane to me that there is not an existing list of all articles by such a well-published and well-known author. Bonus points to anyone with ideas about how to actually get ahold of the articles, aside from the inevitable ebay bidding spree, or holing up at the library in front of Lexis-Nexis all weekend.
posted by kensington314 to Society & Culture (5 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
If you intend to start a list of your own, this book has an incomplete bibliography of her articles. It is also claimed that another bibliography exists in this book, which is available cheaply enough if you search around a bit.

From the Captain Obvious Dept., quite a few things come up if you search for her as author in Google Books, although it's a bit of a slog getting past her books and their various editions. And of course the online archives of the New Yorker, New York Times, Vogue, etc., will have them in search results, although perhaps not all accessible for free.
posted by mykescipark at 11:41 PM on April 30, 2013 [1 favorite]

Yeah, this is pretty doable, but you'll need to start the legwork yourself.

All the tips above are pretty good, plus, of course, the NY Review of Books. (The articles themselves are mostly behind their paywall, but response letters are outside of it.)

I honestly think that this is a really doable project, if you start with those materials and get yourself a spreadsheet going. (With fields for title, date of publication, date of anthologizing if any, etc.)

MeMail me if you want some Lexis/Nexising done. (I'm also represented by Janklow, I could possibly help there.) Also, Conde Nast has both a central archivist and also usually each publication therein has its own archives person, so Vogue should be helpful.

The NYPL might be useful as well; it does have every issue of all these magazines, looks like.

I think the best possible way is to do the majority of the assembling yourself, then publish it somewhere and open it up to the Internet, which will undoubtedly pitch in. (I have some ideas about that too.) The early stuff, like the film reviews, will be hardest, of course.

Finally, there are probably a couple of people itching to start biographies of her, or have already started on them, and they'll do this work as well. As a matter of information, it would be better to have this done in public, for everyone's benefit though.
posted by RJ Reynolds at 5:30 AM on May 1, 2013 [1 favorite]

Here's what I would do:

Go to every database I have access to that indexes the kinds of publications that Joan Didion has written for*. Like, I could start with Gale OneFile, which is available to anyone in Massachusetts who has a library card, and which indexes a lot of magazines (including all the ones mentioned so far).

I would search the database for articles by Joan Didion. I would export all of those citations to a citation management program like Zotero**. I would do this with every likely-sounding database I could find, then I would use the de-duplication function in the citation management program to eliminate duplicates.

I would sort the list by article/story title so that I could easily check it against the stuff in the collections.

There are some problems with this approach: it's hard to know what you're missing. Older stuff, and stuff in more obscure publications, may not be indexed in the major indexes. But you could get a long way with this approach, I think.

*Good places to start: your local public library, any nearby college/university libraries that are open to the public, your friends' colleges or universities if they are willing to loan you a password (not that they should do that but I have heard some people do). If you're having trouble figuring out which databases have the right kind of articles, ask a librarian or go to a library with a better website.
**Seriously - there will be a little bit of a learning curve but ultimately it will save you a lot of time compared with a spreadsheet.
posted by mskyle at 6:11 AM on May 1, 2013 [1 favorite]

I'm sorry that I have nothing helpful to contribute, but please do post if you get this up and running online--I love Joan Didion's writing and would love to have access to your list.
posted by Amy NM at 7:18 AM on May 1, 2013

Response by poster: Hi everyone so far - thanks for the suggestions! I'm super busy at work the next couple weeks, so I'm going to take this project slow at first, but I will definitely report back.

1. Mikescipark - I'm going to check out both books.

2. RJ Reynolds - I may indeed MeFiMail you.

3. I will check out Zotero, and at some point in the next several weeks will probably find myself holed up in LA's beautiful Central Public Library going through various databases and back-issues.

4. Amy NM, I will definitely post what I come up with.
posted by kensington314 at 10:40 AM on May 1, 2013

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