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Joan Didion, legendary American writer, dead at 87

Joan Didion has died at the age of 87, her publisher has confirmed.

The legendary essayist, novelist and screenwriter — who had long been revered as one of America’s pre-eminent writers — passed away at her Manhattan home Thursday morning.

“We are deeply saddened to report that Joan Didion died earlier this morning at her home in New York due to complications from Parkinson’s disease,” Penguin Random House/Knopf said in a statement.

She was preceded in death by her husband, John Gregory Dunne, and their daughter, Quintana Roo Dunne.

Didion was best known for chronicling the 1960s counterculture in her groundbreaking book of essays, “Slouching Towards Bethlehem.” She also won the 2005 National Book Award for Nonfiction for her best-selling memoir, “The Year of Magical Thinking.”

In 2012, she was awarded the National Humanities Medal by President Barack Obama, who described her as one of the “sharpest and most respected observers of American politics and culture.”

Joan Didion is pictured top right in the 1970s with her husband, John Gregory Dunne, and their only daughter, Quintana Roo. She is seen bottom right with President Barack Obama in 2012.

Didion, born in Sacramento in 1934, was the descendant of pioneers who crossed the Donner Pass in California in the 19th century.

The daughter of a US Army Air Corps member, Didion frequently moved around as a child and went on to graduate from the University of California, Berkeley, in 1956. She embarked on a writing career after winning a Vogue essay contest in her senior year.

Didion relocated to New York City and spent seven years at Vogue, eventually working her way up to associate features editor. While in the Big Apple, she met the writer John Gregory Dunne, whom she married in 1964. They adopted their only daughter, Quintana Roo, in 1967.

Didion (pictured in the 1960s) became one of America’s most famous literary celebrities. Getty

The following year, she released a bestselling book of essays, titled “Slouching Towards Bethlehem,” which turned her into one of the country’s most prominent literary celebrities.

The book includes entries detailing San Francisco’s hippie movement, and coolly observes the upheavals of American life in the 1960s.

“The center was not holding,” Didion wrote. “It was a country of bankruptcy notices and public-auction announcements and commonplace reports of casual killings and misplaced children and abandoned homes and vandals.”

Didion (pictured in the 1960s) published essays for Vogue, the Saturday Evening Post and the New York Times Book Review. Getty

The book also features Didion’s oft-quoted line: “Character — the willingness to accept responsibility for one’s own life — is the source from which self-respect springs.”

Along with Tom Wolfe, Truman Capote and Norman Mailer, Didion helped popularize “New Journalism” — a style of non-fiction writing that borrowed literary techniques such as subjective language.

She is credited with influencing a generation of journalists and changing the style of non-fiction writing forever.

Joan Didion and John Gregory Dunne in 1972 — the year after they penned the screenplay for “Panic In Needle Park.” Getty Images

After returning to her native California, Didion teamed up with her husband to write screenplays, including 1971’s “The Panic in Needle Park” starring Al Pacino.

The couple’s success writing movies created a lucrative revenue stream beyond magazine writing and attracted the likes of Steven Spielberg, Brian De Palma and Martin Scorsese to their home.

“They had great dinner parties,” her nephew Griffin Dunne told The Post in 2017. “People would get stoned and drink and that was a harrowing drive home.”

“The White Album” by Joan Didion is widely revered as a classic work of American non-fiction. Joan Didion

Didion and Dunne also wrote the 1976 version of “A Star Is Born,” starring Barbra Streisand and Kris Kristofferson, as well as 1996’s “Up Close & Personal,” featuring Michelle Pfeiffer and Robert Redford.

Didion continued to publish critically acclaimed essays throughout the 1970s. Her 1979 anthology “The White Album” is revered as one of the most important essay collections in American history.

In the 1980s, Didion turned her attention to politics, joining political campaign trails and publishing essays that skewered Republicans and Democrats alike.

She also critiqued the way politics was reported by American journalists, writing in her 1988 essay “Insider Baseball” that members of the media were “a self-created and self-referring class, a new kind of managerial elite” that “tend to speak of the world not necessarily as it is but as they want people out there to believe it is.”

Didion — who became known for her cool and incisive observations of American life — is pictured in 1977. Getty

Didion continued to publish essays in the 1990s and early 2000s, before the death of her husband in 2003.

She chronicled her grief in “The Year of Magical Thinking” — which was published in 2005, the same year her and Dunne’s only daughter, Quintana Roo, died at age 39 from acute pancreatitis.

“Grief comes in waves, paroxysms, sudden apprehensions that weaken the knees and blind the eyes and obliterate the dailiness of life,” Didion wrote in the book, which was nominated for a Pulitzer Prize.

Joan Didion attends the American Theatre Wing’s 2012 Annual Gala at the Plaza Hotel on September 24, 2012. Getty Images

Didion also wrote several critically acclaimed novels, including “Run, River” (1963), “Play It As It Lays” (1970) and “A Book Of Common Prayer” (1977).

The bestselling author largely disappeared from public life following the publication of her memoir “Blue Nights” in 2011. However, she appeared in the 2017 Netflix documentary “Joan Didion: The Center Will Not Hold,” directed by her nephew, Griffin Dunne.

In a statement following news of her death on Thursday, Knopf editor Shelley Wanger wrote: “Joan was a brilliant observer and listener, a wise and subtle teller of truths about our present and future. She was fierce and fearless in her reporting. Her writing is timeless and powerful, and her prose has influenced millions.”