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To celebrate the release of the Netflix documentary Joan Didion: The Center Will Not Hold, we bring you our 1978 Art of Fiction interview with the writer—plus a Halloween ghost story from William Faulkner and a haunted poem by Matthew Zapruder.
Joan Didion, The Art of Fiction No. 71
Issue no. 74 (Fall–Winter 1978)
I grew up in a dangerous landscape. I think people are more affected than they know by landscapes and weather. Sacramento was a very extreme place. It was very flat, flatter than most people can imagine, and I still favor flat horizons. The weather in Sacramento was as extreme as the landscape. There were two rivers, and these rivers would flood in the winter and run dry in the summer. Winter was cold rain and tulle fog. Summer was 100 degrees, 105 degrees, 110 degrees. Those extremes affect the way you deal with the world. It so happens that if you’re a writer the extremes show up. They don’t if you sell insurance.
“The Werewolf,” by William Faulkner
Issue no. 79 (Spring 1981)
The house stands far off Old Taylor Road in Oxford, Mississippi, hidden behind long rows of tall cedar trees. The driveway which leads up to the house is dirt, marred by deep ruts and holes; and on each side grow tangled brambles of honeysuckle and blackberry thickets. The house cannot be seen from the street, but at the end of the driveway, it looms big, and white, and beautiful. It looks as if it has been there forever, its two story wooden frame rising so high that the second story balcony looks into the very tops of the cedar trees.
“Come On All You Ghosts,” by Matthew Zapruder
Issue no. 193 (Summer 2010)
I heard a little cough
in the room, and turned
but no one was there
except the flowers
Sarah bought me
and my death’s head
glow in the dark key chain
that lights up and moans
when I press the button
on top of its skull
and the ghost
I shyly name Aglow …
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