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Joan Didion and John Dunne Marriage Profile

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The marriage and career partnership of Joan Didion and John Dunne lasted nearly 40 years. It ended with the sudden death of John. Read about when they met, their wedding, marriage, careers, and more.

Born:

Joan Didion: December 5, 1934 in Sacramento, California.

John Gregory Dunne: May 25, 1932 in Hartford, Connecticut.

Died:

John: December 30, 2003, at the age of 71, of a massive coronary while at the dining room table at home in Manhattan, New York.

John died just a little more than a month before their 40th wedding anniversary. His ashes were buried at St. John the Divine on March 23, 2003.

When John and Joan Met:

Around 1958, Joan and John met in New york City.

Wedding Date:

January 30, 1964.
John and Joan were married in the afternoon at Mission San Juan Bautista in San Benito County, California.

Joan had purchased her wedding dress, a white silk short dress, in San Francisco on the same day that John F. Kennedy was assassinated in Dallas, Texas. John wore a navy blue suit.

They had approximately 40 people at their wedding. Their wedding reception was held at the Lodge at Pebble Beach.

Honeymoon:

John and Joan spent a few nights of their honeymoon at the San Ysidio Ranch in Montecito. Then they stayed at the Beverly Hills Hotel.
Source: The Year of Magical Thinking, page 70.

Children:

John and Joan had one daughter who they adopted at birth on March 3, 1966 in Santa Monica, California: Quintana Roo Dunne Michael. She married Gerry Michael, a musician, on July 26, 2003. Quintana was a photographer and photo editor.

On August 26, 2005, eighteen months after the death of her father, Quintana died in New York City at New York-Presbyterian/Weill Cornell Hospital. She died from acute pancreatitis at the age of 39.Quintana's funeral was at St. Vincent Ferrer. Her ashes are alongside her father at St. John the Divine.

Education:

Joan graduated from the University of California at Berkeley in 1956.

John graduated from Princeton University in 1954.

Residence:

They moved from New York to Los Angeles in the mid-1960s and lived there for 25 years except for 18 months when John moved to a residential motel off the Strip in Las Vegas. John and Joan lived in the Upper East Side of Manhattan, New York, at the time of his death.

Religion:

John was Catholic. He wrote, "I'm an avowed Catholic, I'm not a practicing Catholic. I hope there's a priest somewhere in the vicinity as I go out."
Source: Publishers Weekly, August 22, 1994 v241 n34 p30(2)

Joan is an Episcopalian.

Occupations and Interests:

They worked together on literary projects including several screenplays. Although they both had consistent work habits, they worked best when they had separate offices.

Joan is an award winning writer, playwright, screenwriter, essayist, novelist, and journalist. Joan enjoys cooking, working with orchids, giving parties, and reading.

John was a novelist, screenwriter and literary critic. He had served with the U.S. Army from 1956 to 1956.

Joan's Memoir:

After John's death, Joan wrote The Year of Magical Thinking which is a record of her first year without John. It is an honest journey of grief and self-awareness. It is not meant to be a self-help book for anyone dealing with the loss of a spouse.

Trivia from book:
"Dolphins refuse to eat after the death of a spouse. Geese fly and call, searching until they themselves become disoriented and lost."
Source: The Year of Magical Thinking, page 46.

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Quotes About Love and Marriage:

Joan, about flying with John: "On takeoff he held my hand until the plan began leveling. He always did."
Source: The Year of Magical Thinking, page 80.

Joan, about marriage: "Marriage is memory, marriage is time."
Source: The Year of Magical Thinking, page 197.

Joan, on writing together: "Because we were both writers and both worked at home our days were filled with the sound of each other's voices."
Source: Boston Globe

Joan, after John's death: “I could not count the times during the average day when something would come up that I needed to tell him. This impulse did not end with his death. What ended was the possibility of response.”
Source: Straight.com

Joan about John: "I did not always think he was right nor did he always think I was right but we were each the person the other trusted."
Source: Seattle Times

Diana Manister: "Neither could imagine living without the other. Whether collaborating on screenplays, or simply writing side by side day after day for forty years, they were rarely out of range of the sound of the other's voice." Source: Contemporary Literature at About

Joan, about working with John: "He reads everything I write. I read everything he writes."
Source: Encyclopedia of World Biography Supplement, Vol. 20. Gale Group, 2000.

Joan, about being newlyweds: “In fact I had no idea how to be a wife. In those first years I would pin daisies in my hair, trying for a ‘bride’ effect. Later I had matching gingham skirts made for me and Quintana, trying for ‘young mother.’ . . . both John and I were improvising, flying blind.”
Source: Commentary, Vol. 120, December 2005, No. 5

slate.com, about Joan's denial of John's health situation: "... she had lived in denial, of her husband's extreme vulnerability, for almost half of the marriage. Perhaps we are witnessing a special sort of grief, grief in a woman whose longstanding defenses have been overwhelmed."
Source: Slate.com

John, about his friendship with Joan: "I wonder how the marriage would have worked if we hadn't known each other so many years when we were really close friends. People have a hard time believing this, but these is no professional competition between us. I think the reason is the six years of friendship when we were both starting off together."
Source: NY Times

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