Political Fictions After September 11th

September 11, 2023   •   By Brandon Sward

Jon Wiener interviewed Joan Didion the week after 9/11.

Brandon Sward brings the piece up from the LARB archive:

On this day, 22 years ago, it seemed to many Americans that everything changed. That Tuesday morning, two airplanes struck the North and South Towers of the World Trade Center in one of the deadliest terrorist acts in human history. Less than two hours later, both 110-story skyscrapers had collapsed, killing almost 3,000 and wounding many thousands more. Eventually, the illnesses caused by the resultant toxic dust that blanketed Lower Manhattan would claim more lives than the attack itself, not to mention the millions of casualties of, and persons displaced by, the Global War on Terrorism.

A week later, Joan Didion boarded one of the first post-9/11 flights from New York to California. The trip was on occasion of her new essay collection, Political Fictions. Upon her arrival, Didion sat for an interview with Jon Wiener. With characteristic terseness, Didion describes her flight as “uneventful.” But even here, her voice caries its quiet poetry: “Below Houston you have a very strong sense of—of the nearness of it.” Although it bears the imprint of its time, parts of the interview are uncomfortably relevant. When Wiener brings up the decision of Senate Democrats to remove the cap on military spending, Didion responds, “We have two parties that calibrate everything they do to attract a very small group called ‘the target voters.’ As for the rest of us, I don’t think it’s too strong to say we have been disfranchised.”


Joan Didion photo by David Shankbone, 2008, CC BY-SA 3.0.