In Political Fictions (2001), Joan Didion insists that her politics are not "eccentric, opaque, somehow unreadable." She writes:

They are the logical product of a childhood largely spent among conservative California Republicans (this was before the meaning of "conservative" changed) in a post-war boom economy. The people with whom I grew up were interested in low taxes, a balanced budget, and a limited government. They believed above all that a limited government had no business tinkering with the private or cultural life of its citizens. In 1964, in accord with these interests and beliefs, I voted, ardently, for Barry Goldwater. Had Goldwater remained the same age and continued running, I would have voted for him in every election thereafter. Instead, shocked and to a curious extent personally offended by the enthusiasm with which California Republicans who had jettisoned an authentic conservative (Goldwater) were rushing to embrace Ronald Reagan, I registered as a Democrat.1

Didion's explanation raises at least two questions. First, why does she trace the fall of the conservative movement to the rise of Ronald Reagan, a figure whose style and policies were very similar to those of Goldwater, and who rose to political prominence through a televised speech to support Goldwater's 1964 presidential campaign? Second, what does Didion mean when she says that she would have voted for Goldwater in subsequent elections had he "remained the same age and continued running"? There are two temporalities at work in this passage: Didion's conservatism is static, while that of the conservative movement changes with time. The 1964 federal election is the singular moment when these two temporalities coincide, when Didion's beliefs align with those of a presidential candidate. Even Goldwater will betray this alignment; he will never be the same man who ran for president in 1964.

The 1964 election was a defining moment for the conservative movement, promoted and defined by National Review, a magazine for which Didion was a frequent contributor between 1959 and 1965. For the first time, the movement pushed through one of its own presidential candidates, edging out more moderate and electable figures such as Nelson Rockefeller, William Scranton, and Richard Nixon. National Review played a prominent role in this victory; William F. Buckley, Jr.'s brother-in-law, L. Brent Bozell, Jr., ghostwrote Goldwater's The Conscience of a Conservative (1960), the book that transformed him into a national figure and helped define his presidential campaign. The campaign also coincided with the high point of the journal's literary circle: in 1964, the journal's contributors included Didion; modernist critic Hugh Kenner; fiction writer, poet, translator, and artist Guy Davenport; literary scholar and cultural critic Jeffrey Hart; and classicist, historian, and journalist Garry Wills. With the exception of Guy Davenport, all of these writers ardently supported Goldwater.2

Reagan's 1966 campaign for Governor of California seemed to represent a similar moment of triumph. Buckley and the magazine's other editors promoted him as a charismatic and electable figure who espoused more or less the same positions that Bozell had outlined in The Conscience of a Conservative. Reagan had his own National Review regular at his side, helping to define his policy positions and craft his public persona: Jeffrey Hart took a leave from Dartmouth College's English Department to work as his speechwriter. However, Reagan's rise also marked the splintering of National Review's literary circle. By 1966, Didion had stopped writing for National Review; her connections with the journal were severed in 1968 when she published "Pretty Nancy" in the Saturday Evening Post, a withering portrait of Nancy Reagan.3 In the same year, Kenner published a critique of Reagan's governorship in National Review. The journal took the unusual step of publishing a rebuttal by Hart, and the incident led to Kenner's acrimonious, albeit temporary departure as contributing editor.4 By 1968, Garry Wills was well into the political transformation that would lead to his excommunication from the conservative movement, publishing the incisive critiques of Reagan and Nixon collected in Nixon Agonistes (1970).What are we to make of these writers' admiration for Goldwater and disdain for Reagan? Their mixed responses evoke one of the central contradictions of post-World War II conservatism. In Pierre Bourdieu's terms, intellectuals, regardless of their political persuasion, are a "dominated faction of the dominant class," struggling to make a place for themselves in a ruling class defined by the economic capital of the bourgeoisie.5 Their basic strategy is to affirm the value of the cultural capital (art, science, technical knowledge) they produce. In the post-World War II period, faced with an expanded welfare state that increasingly relied on expertise, American conservative intellectuals imagined themselves as defectors from this "'New Class' of 'symbolic specialists,'" attempting to take control of the state.6 They were, in other words, anti-intellectual intellectuals waging war against their own class interests.

In the pages of National Review, this anti-intellectualism often took the form of a populist distrust of expertise, usually intertwined with an elitist disdain for the common run of (liberal and leftist) intellectuals. When Didion and Kenner aligned themselves with movement conservatism in the late 1950s, this twinned populism/elitism seemed like a risky but viable strategy for achieving distinction for forms of writing outside of the mainstream of literary production and academic criticism. This strategy was appealing when conservatism was a minority position, with little chance of actually impacting literary and academic institutions. In the mid-1960s, however, with conservatives taking control of the Republican Party and running their home (Didion) or adopted (Kenner) state, the real-world implications of conservative anti-intellectualism became inescapable. Both writers attempted to elide this knowledge during the 1964 campaign, projecting similar fantasies of Goldwater as an elitist figure who reflected their own conception of themselves as literary aristocrats. Both, in short, used Goldwater to reassure themselves that their versions of literary practice fit within the conservative movement.7 These fantasies dissolved when Ronald Reagan emerged as the new conservative standard bearer, enacting policies that embodied conservative distrust of post-secondary expertise. After Goldwater, conservative politicians became figures in whom Didion and Kenner no longer recognized themselves. Criticizing Reagan, Didion and Kenner sought to disavow a movement that now threatened the aristocratic conception of literary practice that they continued to espouse, long after they stopped being active contributors to National Review.

Goldwater Camelot

In a July 14, 1964 article in National Review, Kenner outlined the hope that many of the journal's writers and critics saw in Goldwater's candidacy. Tasked with presenting "A View of a Goldwater Administration from the Academy," Kenner imagines a young assistant professor nervously drinking gin and tonic as he contemplates the election. A Goldwater victory, the young man reflects, will mean the arrival of "barbarism," the destruction of the "edifice of enlightenment" or at least its temporary suspension underground. The professor's anxieties, Kenner reflects, highlight the "blatant secret" that there is a liberal "intellectual establishment" that has absorbed even "the greenest understrappers." They also highlight the truth this secret obscures that liberal dominance of the academy embodies its own form of barbarism that a conservative electoral victory might dispel. The average liberal intellectual believes in a series of ideological tenets: that "economics is an empirical science," that international politics "is a ballet of disengagement from collective guilt," that law "is a box of tools for rebuilding society," that literature is the "symbolic expression" of "the reforming spirit," and that history is "a delineation of the inclined plane that runs upward." A Goldwater victory will activate "standby circuits" of conservative intellectuals aligned with anti-liberal venues such as National Review. President Goldwater, Kenner imagines, will draw "on articulate if long discounted sectors of the academy: on the work of economists, political scientists and historians, professors of literature and government and law, who have been working for decades in explicit opposition to fashion." The assistant professor, Kenner concludes, "will have to start learning things."8This vision of an alternative conservative academy, rescued from obscurity by a Goldwater victory, echoes the fantasies that left-liberal writers had projected onto John F. Kennedy four years earlier. As Garry Wills observes, for intellectuals like Norman Mailer, Arthur Schlesinger, Jr., and Kenneth Galbraith, Kennedy became "their surrogate, their dream self . . . Through him they escaped their humdrum lives at the typewriter, on the newspaper, in the classroom."9 These fantasies fastened onto actual features of the Kennedy administration, which embodied a renewed enthusiasm for and reliance on scientific and social scientific expertise, as well as an appreciation for the arts, exemplified by Robert Frost's participation in Kennedy's inauguration and White House performances by Pablo Casals and other classical musicians. The Goldwater who ran for office in 1964, in contrast, was an unlikely vessel for Kenner's vision. Although Goldwater enlisted the help of libertarian economists such as Milton Friedman, he turned his campaign management over to Arizonan business associates whose conservatism was "rooted in contempt for fast-talking Easterners and their wily ways."10 This contempt led them to eschew the kind of expertise that increasingly guided post-World War II presidential campaigns. Goldwater and his circle, for example, largely ignored the Princeton-based polling firm that the Republican National Committee hired on their behalf.11 At the same time, as Rick Perlstein documents, the campaign sounded populist themes hitherto absent from Republican politics at the presidential level: "All those folks who were angry at domestic disorder, at immorality, at crime most of whom would never consider calling themselves conservatives . . . now had a side to join."12 This law and order theme, combined with Goldwater's opposition to the 1964 Civil Rights Act, won Republicans the overwhelming support of the Southern states for the first time in American history. At the same time, his intransigent anti-Communism and promise to strip the Federal government back to its bare essentials appealed to the Californian and Midwestern conservatives who made the John Birch Society a thriving political enterprise in the early 1960s.

These populist themes were not new to postwar conservatism; rather, Goldwater gave voice to an anti-intellectualism that had been central to National Review from its beginnings, complexly intertwined with the magazine's cultural elitism. In the 1950s and 1960s, most National Review writers distrusted mass culture and mass democracy. Drawing on libertarian theorist Albert Jay Nock, Buckley conceived of the magazine's contributors as members of "'the Remnant,' a small select group of individuals who are carrying aloft the flame of civilization in the face of an encroaching Dark Age."13 One of the magazine's functions, Buckley believed, was to preserve the Western cultural tradition. For this reason, the magazine featured a robust book review section that often focused on literary topics; as Bryan Santin documents, contributors "positioned themselves as the true guardians of highbrow culture, American literature in particular."14 Goldwater, Buckley and other conservatives believed, shared this belief in cultural custodianship. The Conscience of a Conservative, for instance, insists that conservatives set aside faddish opinions voiced by "the mass communications media" and instead draw on insights from "Aristotle's Politics": "the Conservative approach is nothing more or less than an attempt to apply the wisdom of experience and the revealed truths of the past to the problems of today."15

At the same time, most National Review writers were deeply suspicious of intellectuals as a class, in ways that prefigured Goldwater's populist turn in his 1964 campaign. In 1955, when Buckley launched the magazine, the various factions of the conservative movement libertarians, traditionalists, and anti-Communists shared little in common except two enemies: international Communists and domestic liberals. These two enemies were linked: liberals' suspicion of universal truths and willingness to intervene in the free market paved the way for the moral relativism and state interventionism at the core of the Communist system.16 Kenner's hypothetical assistant professor exemplifies the way that the liberal was usually characterized in the pages of National Review: as a pseudo-intellectual caricature. Liberals were ideologues who had taken over the academy and, from there, exerted an overwhelming influence on the nation's politics and culture. As William F. Buckley, Jr., put it in his 1955 "Publisher's Statement":

Energetic social innovators, plugging their grand designs, succeeded over the years in capturing the liberal intellectual imagination. And since ideas rule the world, the ideologues, having won over the intellectual class, simply walked in and started to run things.17

As an antidote to this class's liberalism, National Review writers paradoxically venerated and claimed to channel the wisdom of the American people the same people whom they believed to be in thrall to mass culture. Even as Buckley drew on Nock's conception of conservative intellectuals as a civilized Remnant, he also paid homage to his Yale University mentor, Willmoore Kendall, who argued that "the survival of societies depended on the existence of a 'public orthodoxy' to which the members adhered and to which the majority would brook no exceptions."18 As John Judis demonstrates in his biography of Buckley, this opposition between Nock's elitism and Kendall's majoritarianism ran through Buckley's political thinking, alternately leading him to disdain or celebrate mass prejudice, depending on whether it was convenient for him to do so.19

These contradictory strains of elitism and populism help explain Kenner's attraction to National Review as well as his eventual disenchantment with it. In the early 1960s, Kenner championed the journal as an alternative to liberal publishing venues such as Partisan Review and Dissent. "NR is the kulchural New Frontier," he wrote to Davenport in 1961, simultaneously aligning the journal with Pound's modernist enterprise and juxtaposing its forays into cultural criticism with the Kennedy administration's domestic programs. For Kenner, National Review offered an alternative to the didactic liberalism of the literary academy, giving him a venue to write about modernist authors like Pound, Eliot, and Wyndham Lewis without having to apologize for their politics. The journal's notion of cultural custodianship also conformed to his own conception of the modernist enterprise, especially as embodied in the work of Ezra Pound, as an effort to recover and preserve the species' deep past.20 At the same time, he worried that the journal, and the conservative movement that it spearheaded, embodied a philistine resistance to modernist aesthetics. The problem with National Review, he wrote to Davenport, is the "shortage of people on the right who know a fugue from a fiddle. I.e., shortage of contributors, as well as hard cover of doctrinaire standpattism among readers."21 Kenner struggled, in particular, with the rigidity of book review editor Frank Meyer, who did not share Kenner's appreciation for literary modernism. Meyer, he complained, "is hagridden by ideas, and by a notion that everything modern somehow degenerates, unless it's programmatically patriarchal like Eliot."22

These anxieties came to the fore when Ronald Reagan ran for governor and mounted a campaign that appealed to voter anxieties about the Watts riot and campus anti-Vietnam protests. For Kenner, Reagan's campaign and governorship demonstrated exactly what it means for academics when conservatives achieve political power. The title of Kenner's 1968 essay, "A Nervous View of Ronald Reagan," alludes to his earlier Goldwater piece, and the article neatly inverts the older piece's conception of the post-World War II academy and of the welfare state within which it is embedded. Kenner's essay focuses on the most dramatic manifestation of Reagan's anti-intellectual populism: his assault on the University of California system his firing of UC President Clark Kerr and proposed 10 percent cut to its budget. For Kenner, Reagan's claim that the State of California "has no business 'subsidizing intellectual curiosity'" appeals to a populist distrust of postsecondary research, especially within the humanities. He writes: "We are to count that dollar squandered that is not spent on instruction, instruction being envisaged as a funnel with a bottle of Eternal Verities being dumped in one end, and an open undergraduate mouth in the other."23For Kenner, Reagan's attack on humanities professors as middlemen and women who merely added to the cost of education without adding any value to it, exposed a central contradiction within conservative political strategy aimed at rolling back the welfare state. In Kenner's account, the welfare state that the Roosevelt administration enacted in the 1930s benefited "a large class x" while "a smaller class y was paying." In the 1960s, in contrast, the United States approached "nearly classless affluence, which both receives and pays. And hates paying." Neither conservative nor liberal politicians could slash public institutions or raise the taxes to pay for them without alienating voters. Instead, populist conservatives like Reagan offered "psychodrama" as a solution to voters' discontent, turning professors and other professional public service providers into scapegoats responsible for rising costs. Hence, Reagan repeated his strategy for chastising the UC System when dealing with Medi-Cal, turning "doctors," and "not the demanders of the services," into "villains."24

Faced with the material implications of Reagan's anti-intellectualism, Kenner tried to set aside his anxieties about National Review's similar antagonism towards academic expertise. The journal's willingness to publish his critique of Reagan, Kenner wrote to Davenport, reflected its esteem for independent thought: "It is to their honor that they want it revised for print. Imagine, per contra, the Nation running a pro-Reagan piece."25 Kenner was quickly disappointed; Frank Meyer put off a planned February 13 publication of the essay in order to commission a rebuttal from Jeffrey Hart, who was working for Reagan at the time. Hart's rebuttal, published alongside Kenner's article, begins by ridiculing Kenner's multi-syllabic prose style: "Look at Mr. Kenner's first paragraph. We move from 'bellybutton' to 'zamindary' the point being, ho-hum, that the Whole Keyboard is being used."26 For Hart, Kenner's article exemplifies Reagan's demand that taxpayer money not fund wasteful intellectual work that does not contribute to clear instruction; Hart invites the reader to set aside the "baubles" of Kenner's prose in order to expose the fallacious core of his argument, which consists of Kenner's misunderstanding of California's budgeting process. It also consists of his misrepresentation of academic work in the UC system: "the average teaching assignment at Berkeley is 4.5 class hours per week," he writes. "With the state facing bankruptcy, might not some teachers add, say, one course per year to their schedules?"27 Kenner, in Hart's article, becomes a version of the assistant professor whom Kenner had caricatured in his Goldwater piece an out-of-touch liberal terrified of the judicious reforms brought in by a conservative politician. Kenner was offended by the response. For Kenner, Hart's mocking attack dramatized his concerns about conservative philistinism and demonstrated that the movement had become just as ideological as the liberal left. "After painful thought," he wrote to Davenport, "I have formally but not publicly severed all connection with NR. No reflection on WFB's friendship, which I trust to retain, but the ideologues have gotten control."28

Kenner's disavowal of conservative populism in his Reagan piece highlights the paradoxical position of the conservative literary intellectual in the mid-1960s. Kenner's affiliation with National Review was, in Bourdieu's terms, an act of distinction an attempt to demarcate his unique position in the literary field by separating himself from merely academic scholars, whose politics and aesthetics he found predictable. That affiliation coincided with a shift in his critical style, as he transitioned from conventional single-author monographs to experimental texts like The Stoic Comedians (1962), The Counterfeiters (1968), and The Pound Era (1971) that enacted the modernist aesthetics that he described. Reagan's successful exploitation of populist tropes always implicit in National Review's conservatism highlighted for Kenner the perils of that affiliation, requiring a further act of distinction from the political movement that helped establish his maverick status. Kenner thus enacted a pattern of National Review apostasy that would be repeated throughout the journal's history by writers who grew affronted by movement conservatism's simultaneous drift into anti-intellectual populism and rigidification into ideology. During the presidency of George W. Bush, he was joined by his former nemesis Jeffrey Hart, who criticized the growing influence of evangelical Christians on the Republican Party, as evident in the administration's "Wilsonian" foreign policy in Iraq. 29 Hart voted for John Kerry in 2004 and Barack Obama in 2008.

Pioneers and Corporation Wives

Kenner's double act of distinction also defined the early career of Joan Didion, the most critically lauded writer that National Review fostered during the 1960s. Like Kenner, Didion joined the journal as part of the wave of young writers who reinvigorated its book review section in the late 1950s. William F. Buckley, Jr., recruited her as a Westerner who would correct the journal's "New York-East Coast oriented" outlook. 30 Didion's attraction to National Review was similar to Kenner's she viewed it as an intelligent alternative to liberal journals and as a venue for developing a new, more rigorous aesthetic than that prevalent in the literary academy and promoted by book publishers. As Deborah Nelson points out in one of the few critical assessments of Didion's National Review work, she used her reviews to develop the "aesthetic of moral hardness" that would guide her throughout her career. 31 This aesthetic entails a writerly commitment to "fight lying all the way." Moral hardness means recognizing that "to juxtapose even two sentences is to tell a lie, to distort the situation, cut off its ambiguities and so its possibilities," but to carry on anyways. 32

In the essay in which Didion first introduces this term her last for the journal she juxtaposes moral hardness against what she considers the nihilism and formal laxity of picaresque writers such as Thomas Pynchon and Joseph Heller. The bulk of her work for National Review, however, highlights the principal aesthetic against which she wanted to define her work: a sentimental liberalism that, she believed, pervaded middle-brow fiction and mainstream journalism. Her first National Review essay was a review of James Michener's Hawaii, which she diagnoses as a book that offers liberal panaceas to complex problems. The book's political weakness, for Didion, is inextricable from its formal shabbiness. Michener offers a sentimental politics that denies the existence of human sin, instead insisting on the prevalence of social problems: "a problem is like a defanged snake in a bag, and can be exorcised, as sin cannot be, by A Liberal Education." 33 This simplistic political viewpoint can only be communicated through the use of stock characters and scenarios drawn from popular culture; in Michener's historical epic, the Pacific "sudses up like daytime radio."34

National Review, then, offered Didion an opportunity to test out her aesthetic one that would dissolve the pieties of mainstream liberal politics. In line with Buckley's intuition that Didion would offer a Western voice, at odds with the journal's East-Coast biases, she aligned this aesthetic with sensibilities bred into her as the child of a California frontier family. These sensibilities, she wrote, mark her as a conservative outsider in liberal New York, alienated from the trends and fashions to which liberal intellectuals are in thrall. In a critical review of J.D. Salinger's Franny and Zooey, for instance, Didion describes the first party she attended in New York, where her "western innocence," was "violated" by her discovery "that Democrats might be people one met at parties." There, she encounters New York's literary intelligentsia, personified by a Princeton graduate student who "intimated that he had a direct wire to the PMLA" and a Sarah Lawrence girl who enthuses about "J.D. Salinger's relationship to Zen."35 Didion's frontier heritage, she imagines, has schooled her in instincts of independence and self-reliance that allow her to resist this kind of liberal groupthink. Second- and third-generation Westerners grow up, she recounts in an appreciative review of Wright Morris's Ceremony in Lone Tree, with stories about the "difficult way West" that provide them with ethical guidelines and practical survival strategies. 36 These stories instill in them what Didion elsewhere calls "self-respect," "the sense that one lives by doing things one does not particularly want to do, by putting fears and doubts to one side, by weighing immediate comforts against the possibility of larger, even intangible comforts."37 Westerners, in other words, organically embody the fusionist synthesis of traditionalism and libertarian individualism that Buckley and other National Review writers were trying to fashion into a national ideology.Didion did not write much about Goldwater in the 1960s. Unlike Kenner, she did not contribute to National Review's issue supporting his candidacy. Her only 1960s writing about Goldwater can be found in Vogue, in brief comments that she likely interjected into the "People Are Talking About" column that she co-wrote in the early- to mid-1960s.38 Her later comments on Goldwater in Political Fictions reveal the probable reason for this reticence: support for Goldwater seemed like such a natural consequence of her Western upbringing that it need not be dwelt on. Indeed, in appealing to her pioneer heritage, Didion presents herself as a literary version of Goldwater. Throughout his political career, Goldwater similarly lamented the disappearance of "traditional values of individual responsibility," values he associated with his family, which migrated to Arizona in the 1860s. 39 He built his presidential campaign on nostalgia for the past; the people of America, he argued, "were forgetting how to live lives of dignity, meaning, and autonomy."40 Like Didion, who returned to the story of the Donner Party throughout her work, Goldwater constructed an elaborate mythology around his family history and home state. He retold the story of his immigrant grandfather's arrival in Arizona territory and establishment of its first retail store. He imagined that this business was a manifestation of the family's capacity for hard work the Goldwaters, he claimed, "didn't know the federal government. Everything that was done, we did it ourselves."41 He elided the government contracts that his grandfather negotiated to provision federal troops in the nineteenth century, as well as the Hoover Dam's impact on his family's fortunes in the 1930s.

In Didion's later writings, especially Where I Was From (2003), she critiques the mythological dimension of her 1960s work, highlighting that the opening of the West, especially the displacement and eradication of its Indigenous peoples, was the product of government intervention rather than individual initiative. Didion debunks Goldwater's claim that Westerners "did it for ourselves." California, in particular, comes to embody for Didion the paradox of a state whose white residents espouse an ideology of self-sufficiency while relying on government investment in railroads, aqueducts, and aerospace technology. Already in her National Review essays, however, she exhibits an awareness of the West's constructedness that Goldwater mostly eschewed.42 "Raised on the litany of the difficult way West," Didion explains in her review of Morris, "the emigrant children have as their heritage only manifest destiny, always a tradition . . . devoid of reference to the past."43 The tradition of the West is one that systematically erases history in order to emphasize the individual's ability to break free from all ties, a conception diametrically opposed to the kind of Burkean traditionalism espoused by Russell Kirk in The Conservative Mind. This tradition, moreover, is itself a "myth" that has "lost its explicability" with the disappearance of the frontier. Westerners, "with the sure self-preservative instincts of sleepwalkers," are left perpetually reworking a myth that itself provides no access to the past, re-assuring themselves that frontier individualism is still possible in a world that denies its existence.44 The tradition of the West, in Didion's account, undergoes a double-erasure; never a real tradition in the first place, it now lives on in dubious stories that Westerners tell themselves. Didion thus outlines the self-erasing dynamic that would characterize her reporting on her home state. Her approach to writing was both a product of her frontier heritage and a corrosive agent working against it. That aesthetic turns against the tradition that enables it, revealing it to be a tissue of myths that sustains the writer only insofar as she doesn't believe in them too literally.This self-reflexivity was crucial to Didion's early 1960s work. For, even as she posited herself as a literary analogue to Goldwater, she distanced herself from his most enthusiastic populist constituency: the Southern Californian suburbanites who supported his presidential bid. In her Morris review, echoing the central theme of her first novel, Run, River, Didion distinguishes between frontier descendants like herself and the white-collar migrants displacing them in the West. Whereas Didion's ancestors crossed the mountains in wagon trains, relying on survival skills and their capacity to endure suffering, the new migrants are "corporation wives, shipped west by General Electric or Campbell's Soup." In David Riesman's terms, the new migrants are other-directed, dependent on their neighbors for their moral compass and sense of self-worth; they "absolutely live on the patio, entertaining other natives of Scarsdale."45 Writ large, this disdain for Southern Californian conservatives underlies Didion's first signature work of literary journalism, "Some Dreamers of the Golden Dream" (1966), her retelling of the tabloid story of Lucille Miller, a San Bernardino housewife convicted of murdering her husband, Cork Miller. The essay's politics are often overlooked in the context of Slouching Towards Bethlehem (1968), most of whose explicitly political pieces skewer the left, giving voice, in John McClure's terms, to readers who "refused the hopes kindled by Kennedy liberalism and the counterculture of the sixties."46 "Some Dreamers," however, focuses on the social dynamics of the American right. Cork, Lucille, and her attorney lover are all Seventh Day Adventists, a church "whose members observe the Sabbath on Saturday, believe in an apocalyptic Second Coming, have a strong missionary tendency, and, if they are strict, do not smoke, drink, eat meat, use makeup, or wear jewelry, including wedding rings."47 They are Midwesterners who migrate to California seeking "the accouterments of a family on its way up: the $30,000 a year, the three children for the Christmas card, the picture window, the family room."48 In short, they are representatives of the demographic shift that made Southern California a hotbed for conservative organizing in the early 1960s.49

The problem with the Millers turns out to be the same problem that Didion diagnoses in the Salinger-loving graduate students she encounters at her first Manhattan party: both lack the self-respect characteristic of Didion's frontier generation. This lack generates the rootless conformism responsible for the amorality she chronicles in her journalism. For Didion, self-respect entails the ability to control the boundaries of the self, to determine what comes in and what comes out. To lack this ability is to be at once "locked within oneself" and "in thrall to everyone we see."50 The ability to police the boundaries of the self is above all else linguistic, which means that the writer must rely on style to distinguish herself from her subjects. "As it happens," Didion writes, "I am still committed to the idea that the ability to think for one's self depends on one's mastery of the language."51 In "Some Dreamers," she therefore arraigns the residents of San Bernardino for their linguistic and intellectual slovenliness.

The story develops two features of Didion's style that would characterize all of her subsequent fiction and reporting: syntactic repetition and the ironic citation of clichés. These two features work together: Didion's elaborate parallelism highlights her linguistic control, her constant effort to "fight lying," while the clichés exemplify the debased material with which she must work. In "Some Dreamers," all of her subjects think and talk in clichés, mostly learned from newspapers, television shows, and films. Lucille's crime is inspired by Billy Wilder's Double Indemnity; the trial revolves around competing, clichéd interpretations of Lucille's behavior prior to her husband's death. For the prosecution, she is "a woman motivated by 'love and greed,'" while for the defense, she is "an impulsive woman who 'couldn't control her foolish little heart.'"52 Finally, at the broadest level, the story that Didion tells is already cliché; crime reporters had exhaustively covered the Miller trial before Didion began her piece. Didion's essay does not distinguish itself from those many tabloid versions through the deeper reportage characteristic of feature writing. She often elides the journalistic facts of Lucille's story in order to underscore that large swaths of the story are so predictable that they need not be investigated. "Unhappy marriages," she writes about the Millers, "so resemble one another that we do not need to know too much about the course of this one."53 Instead, the story distinguishes itself through its style, which identifies the piece as a higher form of journalism: what would soon become known as literary journalism.Didion's early conservatism thus hinges on two acts of distinction: she is not like New York intellectuals who read, produce, and evaluate most literature, but she is also not like the Western conservatives who are mostly indifferent to it. Part of the reason why this literary snobbery appeals to readers is that she interpellates them as similarly standing out from the crowd. As Barbara Grizzuti Harrison remarks, "To delight in her sensibility is to say, 'I'm different too better than other people. I see that she sees what I see.'"54 In Deborah Nelson's terms, this interpellation draws on Didion's "inductively ironic mode of argumentation," whereby the facts of her stories speak for themselves. 55 In "Some Dreamers," readers are meant to immediately identify the defense's claim that Lucille "couldn't control her foolish little heart" as a cliché embedded within but distinct from Didion's reportorial voice. Didion draws attention to that cliché as a formula that obscures, rather than reveals, the moral import of Lucille's alleged crime. Similarly, at various points in the story, Didion addresses the reader, inviting her to conceive of herself as part of California's old elite, distinct from the linguistically careless people who now inhabit the San Bernardino Valley and the tabloid reporters who capture their stories: "Imagine Banyan Street first, because Banyan is where it happened."56

This assumed textual community is a refinement of a rhetorical technique that Didion learned from National Review. From its beginnings, the journal prided itself on its humor. Garry Wills, reporting on National Review's tenth anniversary celebration, highlights the importance of conservative laughter, describing it as a "powerful solvent" that dissolves the "ideological sludge" that usually "builds up" in little magazines.57 For Wills, the journal's humor derives from contributors and readers' shared grounding in traditions of common sense. This grounding allows conservatives to see the absurdity of liberal jargon, and it forms a common bond of understanding that contributors can appeal to in unspoken ways. Didion's National Review essays frequently exhibit this style of humor. Writing about a special number on the "American Imagination" produced by the London Times Literary Supplement, she underscores their reiteration of liberal clichés: "The special number is just as searchingly perceptive about other forms of American life . . . On art: the decline of social realism is due to 'the fright given to intellectuals' poor dears 'by McCarthyism.'"58 In her post-National Review reportage, Didion's irony becomes deadpan it's difficult to imagine a more mature Didion needing to interject "poor dears" to signpost her subjects' ignorance. However, Didion's conception that highly stylized prose might fashion a community of intelligence separate from both the non-literary public and the institutionalized intelligentsia remains intact, a holdover of her attempt to fashion an elitist conservatism in the early 1960s.

The Reagan Mansion

After Ronald Reagan's 1966 gubernatorial campaign, however, this imagined community altogether excludes movement conservatives, whom Didion imagines as hopelessly in thrall to the populism from which she tried to distance herself in the early 1960s. While Didion did not write much about Goldwater, she wrote extensively and eloquently about her disdain for the Reagans, especially Nancy Reagan. In these portraits, the Reagans emerge as typical products of the same California that produced Lucille Miller: conformists who think and speak entirely in clichés, unable to separate themselves from the mass culture that surrounds them. Their followers, including the National Review intellectuals who adulate them, are much the same. Much of Didion's writings about the Reagans focus on the political implications of their former careers as actors, a critique that prefigures later works by Garry Wills and Michael Rogin.59 "Pretty Nancy," Didion's 1968 profile, focuses on Nancy Reagan's capacity for simulation, identifying that capacity as her "truth" and "peculiar essence."60The profile begins with a group of television news and cameramen coaching Nancy Reagan as she goes through the motions of an ordinary day, culminating in her pretending to cut flowers in her garden. The piece's point is that performing for the press is Reagan's ordinary routine; there is no "real day" towards which the performance points. Moreover, this simulation is only possible because of the media's active participation. Reagan, Didion insists, is not an especially good actress; she "has the beginning actress's habit of investing even the most casual lines with a good deal more dramatic emphasis than is ordinarily called for on a Tuesday morning on 45th Street in Sacramento."61 In Didion's later portraits, this point, writ large, becomes her critique of the Reagan presidency and of all post-1980s presidential campaigns. Ronald and Nancy Reagan approach the presidency as a "script waiting to be solved."62 They are second-rate actors. Didion describes, as a "model of the Reagan White House,"63 an incident in which the Reagans visit an Episcopal church in the 1980 campaign and botch their role in the communion ritual. However, their performance compels because of reporters' active participation in it: reporters are "willing, in exchange for 'access,' to transmit the images their sources wish transmitted."64 As in the case of Nancy Reagan being advised to "fake the nip" in her garden, this staging of politics disguises the disappearance of the real.65 Politics becomes a process "connected only nominally, and vestigially, to the electorate and its possible concerns."66

The Reagans, then, institute an inauthentic version of conservatism, one that Didion felt was sharply different from the kind of conservatism that she promoted in the early 1960s. In the 1950s and 1960s, conservatives, including Didion, separated their politics from that espoused by liberals by emphasizing conservatives' attunement to the complexity of reality as opposed to the simplifications of ideology. In the Reagan White House, however, conservatism becomes an ideology: a set of empty phrases repeated as incantations by staff and cabinet members. Didion cites Peggy Noonan's first encounter with the Reagan White House: "There were phrases: personnel is policy and ideas have consequences and ideas drive politics and it's a war of ideas."67 All of these phrases were central tenets of the conservative credo in the 1950s and 1960s, often reiterated as challenges to liberal dogma in early issues of National Review. In the Reagan White House, as Didion underscores through the simple parataxis of Noonan's quote, these tenets became clichés that demarcate who is in and who is out.

This degeneration of conservatism into simulation and dogma has its roots in the Reagans' class and regional origins, which exemplify the same problems that Didion diagnoses in Lucille Miller: the Reagans are geographical outsiders and class arrivistes, with no roots in California. During the Reagan administration, reporters often wrote about the changes in Washington style that the couple initiated, describing those changes as products of their "Westerness."68 As Didion points out, however, neither the Reagans, nor most of the industrialists and financiers who promoted and advised them, were born in the West. They instead represent "a new kind of monied class in America, a group devoid of social responsibilities precisely because their ties to any one place had been so attenuated."69 This lack of geographical roots is embodied in the Sacramento mansion that the Reagans built but never moved into during Ronald Reagan's term as governor. In her essay on the Reagan mansion, Didion contrasts it with the historic Governor's mansion that he rejected. The old Governor's Mansion, which Didion visited as a child, embodies the kind of regional tradition that conservatives once extolled. Its rooms are functionally oriented towards cooking and raising children; the kitchen has a marble top table for rolling pastry, and the bathrooms have "chairs on which to sit and read a story to a child in the bathtub."70 The Reagans' new mansion, in contrast, is adapted to none of these functions; its kitchen is "designed exclusively for defrosting by microwave."71 Most damningly, the mansion is built with generic construction materials ("the same concrete blocks . . . used in so many supermarkets and housing projects and Coca-Cola bottling plants") painted to look like local wood and adobe. The Reagans, in other words, eschew real local tradition for a mass-produced simulation of it.72The mansion, for Didion, exemplifies the superficiality of the Reagans, especially that of Nancy Reagan, who insisted that they leave the old residence, and whom Didion imagines as both the lead actress and primary stage-manager of her husband's political career. In describing the Reagans' lack of regional ties to California, Didion admits that both lived most of their adult lives in the state. However, they belonged to the "entertainment community."73 When Nancy Reagan was still an actress, that community had a rigid set of customs and rituals, which Didion encountered when she launched her own career as a successful screenwriter. The very rigidity of those rituals underscored their fragility: they were ad hoc rules invented to regulate social life amongst the actors, directors, and writers who gravitated to Hollywood from across the world. By the time Nancy Reagan became first lady of California, the rituals were vanishing, overrun by the hedonism of the new generation of 1960s stars. Nevertheless, Nancy Reagan replicated these rituals throughout her life as the only version of society she had ever known. When she moves into the White House, in Didion's account, she orders new china because "the Johnson china had no finger bowls."74 This rigid adherence to vanished rituals means that Nancy Reagan is at once profoundly other-directed (she has a "little girl's fear of being left out") and socially awkward. 75 Perpetually frozen in 1950s Hollywood, she cannot adapt to new social situations requiring different forms of etiquette. Visiting the Episcopal Church during the 1980 campaign, she panics when she realizes that all of the congregants are drinking out of the same communion cup.76

In contrast, Didion emphasizes her own rooted connection to Sacramento, which allows her to adapt to the rituals of the Hollywood elite when she becomes a successful screenwriter, but also to transcend them when those rituals change. Describing the old Governor's Mansion, Didion recounts a party she attended as a teenager, when she was friends with the daughter of Governor Earl Warren. At the party, Didion is initiated into the Mañana Club, a high school sorority for upper-class girls. The ritual entails being blindfolded, while club members hurl insults at the initiate. Hearing that the girls think she's "stuck on herself," Didion learns "for the first time that my face to the world was not necessarily the face in my mirror."77 The ritual highlights Didion's conception of tradition. Being rooted in a tradition enables individuality; the ritual teaches Didion to demarcate the boundaries of herself, to separate her being-for-herself from her being-for-others. In the same way, the entire Governor's mansion enables individuality through its traditional architecture. Unlike Reagan's open-concept mansion, which is "as devoid of privacy or personal eccentricity as the lobby area in a Ramada Inn," the old Governor's Mansion has multiple bedrooms where one can imagine "closing the door and crying until dinner."78

The distinction that Didion draws between the two mansions is the same one that she draws between old and new Californians: the problem with the Reagan mansion, Didion argues, is that it is "insistently and malevolently 'democratic,'" replicating, on a grossly enlarged scale, the architecture of "a very common kind of California tract house."79 The mansion, in other words, embodies a mass cultural mutation of class hierarchy in which every class embraces the same ideals and aesthetic at different scales. This is the same mutation that drives Lucille Miller to murder her husband she inhabits a California characterized by "revolving credit and dreams about bigger houses, better streets."80 Put otherwise, the distinction between the two mansions is the same one that Didion draws between her written syntax and the clichés spoken by her subjects. Didion's style is analogous to the private rooms of the old Governor's Mansion. It is at once deeply traditional and idiosyncratically individualistic. It calls attention to its use of classical rhetoric while also fostering and preserving Didion's individuality, sheltering that individuality from the linguistic welter outside its parallel constructions. At the same time, Didion's style aims to preserve a form of cultural capital absent from quotidian journalism. The old Governor's Mansion is a place that embodies a connection to the literary tradition; one can "imagine reading . . . or writing a book" in its bedrooms, and the library has a "bust of Shakespeare" worked into its mirror.81 In the Reagan mansion, in contrast, "there are only enough bookshelves for a set of the World Book and some books of the Month."82 In the clash between the old mansion and the new, the old California and the new, Didion sees a conflict between an older, cultured upper class and a newer, moneyed one. She identifies with the former at the expense of the latter.

Intellectual Populism

In his own critical reassessment of Ronald Reagan's rise in the conservative movement, Garry Wills outlines one of the contradictions played out by Reagan's presidency. For many conservatives, Ronald Reagan initiated a political realignment that secured the success of their movement in the late 1960s: a division of the American electorate between the productive and non-productive classes, Republican workers and their bosses against Democratic professionals and welfare recipients. As Wills points out, however, Reagan himself was "part of this 'non-productive,' verbal new class from the beginning of his career" first as a sports reporter, then as an actor, then as a spokesman for General Electric, and finally as a pundit and politician. He was "a supplier of entertainment, comfort, distraction, and healing symbols, entirely a creation of the media."83 This contradiction was central to the movement conservatism promoted by National Review. From its first issue, the journal identified its central domestic enemy as the "Liberal elite," understood as a group consisting primarily of media professionals and academics. 84 Liberalism, for William F. Buckley, Jr. and other editors, was the articulated class-consciousness of this establishment; it embodied the intelligentsia's awareness of its corporate interests and willingness to advance those interests through the cultural institutions at their disposal and ultimately through the state. "The largest cultural menace in America," the editors wrote, "is the conformity of the intellectual cliques which, in education as well as the arts, are out to impose their modish fads and fallacies, and have nearly succeeded in doing so."85 Conservatives' solution to this cultural hegemony was to fashion a counter-intelligentsia, one that would work through alternative institutions and journals to advance its own ideas.

As Kenner makes clear in his Goldwater essay, this conception of the conservative as dissident intellectual, at war with her own class, appealed to many of the literary writers associated with the journal in the early 1960s. Both Kenner and Didion regarded National Review as a venue for literary activities that they believed to be ill suited for the cultural institutions that supported their work. Through the journal, Kenner promoted experimental strands of high modernism not yet fully institutionalized in the academy, while Didion worked out an aesthetic of moral hardness at odds with the publishing industry's taste for morally ambiguous, picaresque postmodern fiction. In so doing, both writers elided the fact that movement conservatism was deeply inhospitable to the kind of cultural expertise that they promoted. This elision was central to their idealized conceptions of Goldwater, who acted as a screen for their fantasies of an elitist conservatism within which they could find a comfortable home. These fantasies dissolved when Reagan rose to prominence as the new standard-bearer for the conservative movement, bringing to the fore the populist anti-intellectualism already implicit in Goldwater's campaign. Whereas a potential Goldwater presidency seemed, to Kenner, like the opportunity for a productive revolution within the academy, Reagan's governorship seemed like a full-scale assault on the academy itself. Whereas Goldwater seemed, to Didion, to embody the moral hardness that she associated with the frontier tradition and with rigorous literary work, Reagan embodied the other-directedness that she associated with California's new, white suburban migrants. Both writers, in other words, saw National Review in the Goldwater years as a reflection of their own literary aspirations, only to see that reflection shattered with the journal's embrace of Ronald Reagan.

Even after the disenchantment inspired by Reagan's rise to national prominence, however, both Kenner and Didion remained troubled by the contradiction between conservative elitism and populism that he exposed. In 1980, a decade after Kenner had patched up his differences with Buckley and Meyer, and shortly after Ronald Reagan's presidential election victory, Kenner published an overview of twentieth-century technological and cultural revolutions for the journal's 25th-anniversary issue. In it, he revisits his critique of academic conformism from his Goldwater essay, predicting the decline of universities as creative interdisciplinary work like his own "bumps against departmental structures."86 Whereas in his Reagan essay, he bemoaned the governor's assault on public funding for university research, he now imagines humanist scholarship as a solitary activity best carried on outside of the academy. "The next Theory of Justice," he writes, referring to John Rawls philosophical justification for the liberal welfare state, "may well be written not at Harvard but in a cabin in Montana."87 Under President Reagan, the conservative intellectual revolution that he once imagined Goldwater ushering into the academy can only be effected through deinstitutionalization. The trajectory of Kenner's own career reflected this divided relationship with the academy. Beginning in the 1960s, Kenner increasingly wrote for a split academic/popular audience. Being too elite for the university meant reaching out to readers outside of it.Didion's post-National Review political writings reveal that she was similarly unable to escape the populism intertwined with the elitist conservatism she embraced as a younger writer. In her critique of the Reagan mansion, she aligns herself with California's old elite against arrivistes like the Reagans, highlighting her teenage membership in a sorority that pointedly excluded anyone who wasn't upper class.88 In much of her political reporting, however, she articulates a very different class identification. "The people with whom I had preferred to spend time in high school," she insists in her account of the 1988 election, "had, on the whole, hung out in gas stations . . . they had gotten drafted, gone through basic at Fort Ord. They had knocked up girls, and married them."89 She uses this account of the working class as her shorthand for the people excluded by the "managerial elite" who run the political process in both parties. 90 This working class is embodied, for example, by a "man wearing a down vest and a camouflage hat, a man with a definite little glitter in his eyes," who pushes into a Dukakis rally to speak with the candidate.91 This man is the "empirical" America, at odds with the "theoretical" nation imagined by those within the political process. 92 Didion's evocation of the man with the camouflage hat strangely mirrors the political exclusion she describes. Although he comes to the rally with "something to tell" Dukakis, neither the candidate nor the reader learns what he wants to say. 93 Like the gas stations and knocked up girls that Didion evokes in her account of the boys she knew as a teenager, he remains a set of opaque signifiers meant to add up to a collective portrait of the white working class. Didion's conception of white workers as the empirical America excluded from political discourse parallels the Republican Party's use of this same class. Since the 1968 election, Republicans have conjured up a disenfranchised mass of voters the productive classes romanticized by National Review excluded from a political process run by political and media professionals. In her political reportage, Didion appeals to this same rhetoric, describing a closed political process that excludes "the largest political party in America those who did not vote."94 Over the course of their careers, neither Kenner nor Didion fully escaped Goldwater and Reagan, the politicians who first revealed to them the dangers and possibilities of populism for elitists like themselves.

Stephen Schryer is professor of English at the University of New Brunswick.  He is the author of Maximum Feasible Participation: American Literature and the War on Poverty (Stanford University Press, 2018) and Fantasies of the New Class: Ideologies of Professionalism in Post-World War II American Fiction (Columbia University Press, 2011).  He is working on a new book that explores the circle of writers and literary critics fostered by William F. Buckley, Jr.'s National Review between the 1950s and 1970s.



This article benefited from a grant from the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council. It also benefited from the research of two graduate students, Michael Jessome and Dominique Bechard, who helped me sort through the massive archive of National Review articles published in the 1950s and 1960s. I would also like to thank the readers at Post45 for their valuable feedback.

  1. Joan Didion, Political Fictions (New York: Vintage, 2001), 7.[]
  2. "As for the campaign," Davenport wrote to Kenner, "I've decided that we've at last proved the obsolescence of the Presidency. An impartial observer, weighing carefully all the charges of each side, even allowing for lies and hyperbole, is forced to conclude that we would be better off without a leader at all." Guy Davenport and Hugh Kenner, Questioning Minds: The Letters of Guy Davenport & Hugh Kenner, ed. Edward M. Burns (Berkeley: Counterpoint, 2018), 624.[]
  3. Joan Didion and John Gregory Dunne, "Pretty Nancy," The Saturday Evening Post (June 1, 1968): 20. Reprinted in The White Album (New York: Simon & Schuster, 1979), 89-91.[]
  4. Hugh Kenner, "A Nervous View of Ronald Reagan," National Review 20, no. 18 (1968): 444-446; Jeffrey Hart, "Wading in the Serbonian Bog," National Review 20, no. 18 (1968): 446-448. []
  5. Pierre Bourdieu, Homo Academicus, trans. Peter Collier (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1988), 38.[]
  6. Jeane Kirkpatrick, cited in Garry Wills, Reagan's America: Innocents at Home (Garden City, New York: Doubleday & Company, 1985), 101.[]
  7. I am drawing, here, on Louis Althusser's account of the mirror structure of ideology: "the structure of all ideology, interpellating individuals as subjects in the name of a Unique and Absolute Subject is speculary. i.e., a mirror-structure, and doubly speculary: this mirror duplication is constitutive of ideology and ensures its functioning." Lenin and Philosophy and Other Essays, trans. Ben Brewster (New York: Monthly Review Press, 2001), 81. By seeing Goldwater as a figure who embodied their idealized vision of their place in the conservative movement, Didion and Kenner re-assured themselves that they belonged in that movement.[]
  8. Hugh Kenner, "A View of a Goldwater Administration from the Academy," National Review 16, no. 28 (1964): 597-599.[]
  9. Garry Wills, The Kennedy Imprisonment: A Meditation on Power (Boston: Little, Brown, and Company, 1982), 149.[]
  10. Rick Perlstein, Before the Storm: Barry Goldwater and the Unmaking of the American Consensus (New York: Nation Books, 2009), 315.[]
  11. Ibid., 417.[]
  12. Ibid., 485.[]
  13. John B. Judis, William F. Buckley, Jr.: Patron Saint of the Conservatives (New York: Simon and Schuster, 1988), 29.[]
  14. Bryan Michael Santin, "Imagining the American Right: Postwar Fiction, Race, and the Rise of Modern Conservatism, 1945-2005," PhD diss., University of Notre Dame, 2016, 3.[]
  15. Barry Goldwater, The Conscience of a Conservative (Shepherdsville, Kentucky: Victor Publishing, 1960), iii.[]
  16. For a book-length exposition of the idea that liberalism inexorably leads to Communism, see James Burnham, Suicide of the West: An Essay on the Meaning and Destiny of Liberalism (New York: The John Day Company, 1964).[]
  17. William F. Buckley, Jr., "Publisher's Statement," National Review 1, no. 1 (1955), 5.[]
  18. Judis, William F. Buckley, Jr., 60.[]
  19. For example, when Buckley reflected on his failed attempt to run for mayor of New York, he attributed his loss to the "prejudice and passion and narrow self-interest" of most voters. At the same time, he defended his constituency of white ethnic voters against charges of racism, claiming that "the people's slogans, their clichés, often sit, however uneasily, or self-consciously, at the top of a structure of values and discriminations which are not lightly to be dismissed." Cited in Judis, William F. Buckley, Jr., 259.[]
  20. For a more detailed account of Kenner's affinities with traditionalist conservatives, see Stephen Schryer, "Conservative Circuits: Hugh Kenner, Modernism, and National Review," Modernism / modernity 26, no. 3 (2019): 505-520.[]
  21. Davenport and Kenner, Questioning Minds, 31.[]
  22. Ibid., 70.[]
  23. Kenner, "A Nervous View," 444.[]
  24. Ibid., 445.[]
  25. Davenport and Kenner, Questioning Minds, 1016.[]
  26. Hart, "Wading," 446.[]
  27. Ibid., 447.[]
  28. Davenport and Kenner, Questioning Minds, 1066.[]
  29. Jeffrey Hart, The Making of the American Conservative Mind: National Review and Its Times (Wilmington, Delaware: ISI Books, 2006), 363.[]
  30. Priscilla Buckley, cited in Tracy Daugherty, The Last Love Song: A Biography of Joan Didion (New York: St. Martin's Press, 2015), 110.[]
  31. Deborah Nelson, Tough Enough: Arbus, Arendt, Didion, McCarthy, Sontag, Weil (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2017), 152. Daugherty also provides an overview of Didion's National Review essays, drawing connections between them and her first novel, Run, River (108-112).[]
  32. Joan Didion, "Questions About the New Fiction," National Review 17, no. 48 (1965): 1101.[]
  33. Joan Didion, "Black and White, Read All Over," National Review 7, no. 34 (1959): 525-526.[]
  34. Ibid.[]
  35. Joan Didion, "Finally (Fashionably) Spurious," National Review 11, no. 20 (1961): 341.[]
  36. Joan Didion, "Notes from a Summer Reader," National Review 9, no. 10 (1960): 152.[]
  37. Joan Didion, Slouching Towards Bethlehem (New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 1968), 145.[]
  38. According to Daugherty, "Allene Talmey [Didion's associate editor] took credit for 'People Are Talking About,' but Didion wrote many, if not most, of the pieces for it, beginning in 1960" (103-104). The column's comments on Goldwater are mostly revealing for the non-dismissive tone they set for Vogue's coverage of his campaign, which contrasted with that of other, East-coast publications. The column, for instance, cites Goldwater's primary quip versus Nelson Rockefeller, "I use his gas and he uses my taxes" ("People Are Talking About," Vogue 143, no. 6 [1964]: 98), and comments on Parisians' "scrambled image of Goldwater who seems alternately a big bad wolf and a very handsome man" ("People Are Talking About," Vogue 144, no. 5 [1964]: 120).[]
  39. Perlstein, Before the Storm, 483.[]
  40. Ibid., 410.[]
  41. Ibid., 19[]
  42. Goldwater, for instance, had a tattoo on his left hand, marking his membership in the "Smoki" tribe, an all-white group of Arizonan businessmen that dressed in indigenous garb and recreated Hopi and Navajo dances.[]
  43. Didion, "Notes," 152.[]
  44. Ibid.[]
  45. Ibid.[]
  46. John McClure, Late Imperial Romance (London: Verso Books, 1994), 56.[]
  47. Didion, Slouching, 7.[]
  48. Ibid., 8. []
  49. Lisa McGirr documents the demographic shifts that contributed to the rise of the American right in California. Suburban Warriors: The Origins of the New American Right (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2002).[]
  50. Didion, Slouching, 147.[]
  51. Ibid., 123.[]
  52. Ibid., 22-23.[]
  53. Ibid., 8.[]
  54. Barbara Grizzuti Harrison, Off Center: Essays by Barbara Grizzuti Harrison (New York: Dial Press, 1980), 122.[]
  55. Nelson, Tough Enough, 156.[]
  56. Didion, Slouching, 6.[]
  57. Garry Wills, "Thoughts at a Birthday Party," National Review 18, no. 2 (1966): 28.[]
  58. Joan Didion, "Et-Tu, Mrs. Miniver," National Review 8, no. 1 (1960): 20.[]
  59. Wills, Reagan's America; Michael Rogin, Ronald Reagan, the Movie and Other Episodes in Political Demonology (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1988). Wills, in particular, juxtaposes Goldwater and Reagan in terms that closely resemble Didion's. "For good or ill in electoral terms," Wills remarks, "Goldwater was an individualist; a maverick, riskily candid, unorthodox in his style, however consistent in his patriotism; going his own way" (296-297). Reagan's gubernatorial campaign, in contrast, represented the degeneration of Goldwater's style into carefully manicured media simulation: "The spokesman for rugged individualism was programmed more than any major candidate up to that time, with techniques psychiatry, conformity-enhancers, group dynamics that were anathema to conservatives" (297).[]
  60. Joan Didion, The White Album (New York: Simon & Schuster, 1979), 90.[]
  61. Ibid.[]
  62. Didion, Political Fictions, 111.[]
  63. Joan Didion, After Henry (New York: Vintage, 1992), 42.[]
  64. Ibid., 58.[]
  65. Didion, The White Album, 91.[]
  66. Didion, After Henry, 49.[]
  67. Ibid., 26.[]
  68. Ibid., 31.[]
  69. Ibid., 32-33.[]
  70. Joan Didion, The White Album (New York: Simon & Schuster, 1979), 71.[]
  71. Ibid., 69.[]
  72. Ibid., 68.[]
  73. Didion, After Henry, 33.[]
  74. Ibid.[]
  75. Ibid., 39.[]
  76. Ibid., 41.[]
  77. Didion, The White Album, 71.[]
  78. Ibid., 71.[]
  79. Ibid., 69, 71.[]
  80. Didion, Slouching, 8.[]
  81. Didion, The White Album, 71.[]
  82. Ibid., 69.[]
  83. Garry Wills, Reagan's America, 101.[]
  84. "The Magazine's Credenda,"National Review 1, no. 1 (1955): 6.[]
  85. Ibid.[]
  86. Hugh Kenner, "Glimpses of All of It," National Review 32, no. 26 (1980): 1585.[]
  87. Ibid., 1586.[]
  88. Daugherty describes the class exclusivity of Didion's high school sorority, the Mañana Club (39-40).[]
  89. Didion, After Henry, 47.[]
  90. Ibid., 48.[]
  91. Ibid., 51-52.[]
  92. Ibid., 52.[]
  93. Ibid.[]
  94. Didion, Political Fictions, 119.[]