Author: Tyler

Joan Didion’s Estate Sale Was a Success

Joan Didion’s Estate Sale Was a Success

Sunglasses for $27,000? A desk for $60,000? Joan Didion’s estate sale made big bucks in less than a year

As she stood among her stuff on a July morning in New York, Joan Didion was not really looking for anything anymore. She just wanted to go home.

On June 1, 1980, she was among thousands of people who made an evening pilgrimage to the estate sale rooms of her friend and mentor, the literary biographer and National Book Award winner Joan Didion, known for her novels and essays. Together, they were buying up all of Joan Didion’s personal effects, from books to clothes to family photos, for the first time since she died of cancer at 70. The sale, which was put on by the Joan and Leon Levy Foundation, took place the weekend after Didion’s death.

After she had been diagnosed with breast cancer in 1986, the writer, who was married to the playwright Leon Uris, had spent the next three years fighting treatment and illness and writing her final best-selling bestseller, “The Girls,” about the 1960s underground comix scene. Her cancer was given a yearlong prognosis of around 90 percent remission, and the literary biographer was given a deadline of June 1, 1992. It was now or never.


The sale was a resounding success, with $2.6 million in sales, making it one of the largest estate auctions in American history. It helped raise money and awareness for the Joan and Leon Levy Foundation, which works to fund research into inherited diseases and support the families they’ve helped.

The sale was just one of many in the “biography” genre, and it was the fifth of these biographical auctions. And it wasn’t the biggest. In fact, it was just the third time that the literary biographer’s items had been sold in one sitting. The first was in 1977 when “The Biography of Joan Didion” went for $13,500 and one of the more recent sales was in 2006, when a book of Joan Didion’s diaries went on the auction block in June for $100,000. The sale of Joan Didion’s manuscripts in August sold for $1.1 million

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