Joan Didion’s Memorial Service Was a Star-Studded Evening

This included the 2003 death of Ms. Didion’s husband, the writer John Gregory Dunne, from a sudden heart attack, followed less than two years later by the death of their daughter, Quintana Roo Dunne, at the age of 39. Soon after that, Ms. Didion received a diagnosis of Parkinson’s disease. (Ms. Redgrave appeared in the stage version of “The Year of Magical Thinking,” Ms. Didion’s best-selling book about the aftermath of loss.)

Inside the humid church, organizers clad in black handed out fans printed with an Edna St. Vincent Millay quote to guests. At the front of the cathedral, a screen flashed images of Ms. Didion throughout her life: with her husband, with Barack and Michelle Obama when she received the 2012 National Humanities Medal, with Ms. Redgrave at a rehearsal for “The Year of Magical Thinking.”

Was one of the photographs taken by Ms. Leibovitz, a reporter asked her. “Several,” she said.

Many of the speakers who followed Mr. Malloy were writers — among them Hilton Als, Calvin Trillin, Jia Tolentino, David Remnick and Susanna Moore — but there was also a smattering of personal friends (Susan Traylor, who grew up in Malibu with Ms. Didion’s daughter), relatives (her nephew Griffin Dunne, who directed a 2018 documentary about Ms. Didion, for Netflix), a former governor (Jerry Brown speaking on video) and even one former Supreme Court justice (Anthony Kennedy, who grew up with Ms. Didion in Sacramento).

As Mr. Kennedy told it, his older sister had been Ms. Didion’s closest childhood friend.

“She came to our house all the time after school and stayed for dinner and often overnight,” he said.

Invariably, Ms. Didion brought notebooks. She wanted to record her notes about the conversation at the house, so that she could improve her sense of dialogue, he said, adding that she was already writing for the high school newspaper.

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