It has been a year since we lost celebrated author and critic Joan Didion due to complications from Parkinson's disease at the age of 87. Leaving behind a literary legacy that has and will continue to influence countless generations of writers through her work, Didion's passing has also kicked off a massive demand for memorabilia, with collectors and fans shelling out absurd amounts of money to get their hands on seemingly innocuous items from her California and New York homes.
A recent estate sale held by the Stair Galleries in Hudson, New York featured a wide variety of Didion's items, ranging from first editions of The White Album and Run River to pieces of Victorian furniture, works of art by Cy Twombly, Ed Ruscha, Richard Serra and Patti Smith and even her Le Creuset cookware set. All of which, it turns out, people were willing to pay big money for.
Among the more notable objects up for sale was Leslie Johnson's portrait of Didion — based on the photograph of her that graced the back cover of A Book of Common Prayer — which fetched $110,000, as well as another photograph of the author posing next to a Corvette Stingray that went for $26,000. A pair of Celine sunglasses made iconic by Didion, who was the face of a campaign for the French luxury brand shot by Juergen Teller in 2015, went for $27,000.
The Didion-mania extended into what could objectively be classified as the writer's junk. Two sets of blank, unused notebooks inexplicably sold for $11,000 each; a collection of shells and pebbles that sat atop her mantel raked in $7,000; a group of table napkins netted $14,000; a pair of stained leather waste bins went for $5,500 and a selection of books Didion didn't even write but just had sitting in her library was auctioned off for a baffling $26,000.
There is perhaps a poignant point to be made about the exorbitant amounts of cash people were willing to pay for the various knick-knacks that basked in Didion's presence — about capitalism, the power we imbue banal objects with or the writer's personal philosophy of literally living in the same space as her work. On the bright side, the proceeds from the auction's staggering $2 million haul are, at the very least, going towards a good cause, benefitting both medical research and a scholarship fund for women in literature.
Photo via Getty/ Neville Elder/ Corbis
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