top of page

Fixed Ideas: America Since 9.11


April 1, 2003

Publication Date: 


New York Review Books


With a preface by Frank Rich

“A shrewd, seasoned, and superbly articulate interpreter of the machinations of American politics, particularly the art of spin, Joan Didion concisely but precisely breaks down the rhetoric and media strategies of George W. Bush and company, identifying key “fixed ideas, or national pieties” that were marshaled “to stake new ground in old domestic wars” and bolster the administration’s stand on everything from environmental laws to school prayer to the war in Iraq, which, Didion reminds readers, has actually been on the agenda since the Reagan administration. First published in the New York Review of Books, this is an essential work of clarity in a time of obfuscation.” 

—Donna Seaman, Booklist

“In times of national crisis, the public turns to such proven, clear-eyed observers of American society as Didion to place events within a historical and political context.”

—Donna Seaman, Booklist

Read an Excerpt

The following is based on a lecture given this November at the New York Public Library.


Seven days after September 11, 2001, I left New York to do two weeks of book promotion, under other circumstances a predictable kind of trip. You fly into one city or another, you do half an hour on local NPR, you do a few minutes on drive-time radio, you do an “event,” a talk or a reading or an onstage discussion. You sign books, you take questions from the audience. You go back to the hotel, order a club sandwich from room service, and leave a 5 AM call with the desk, so that in the morning you can go back to the airport and fly to the next city. During the week between September 11 and the Wednesday morning when I went to Kennedy to get on the plane, none of these commonplace aspects of publishing a book seemed promising or even appropriate things to be doing. But—like most of us who were in New York that week—I was in a kind of protective coma, sleepwalking through a schedule made when planning had still seemed possible. In fact I was protecting myself so successfully that I had no idea how raw we all were until that first night, in San Francisco, when I was handed a book onstage and asked to read a few marked lines from an essay about New York I had written in 1967.

Later I remembered thinking: 1967, no problem, no land mines there.

Read an Excert
bottom of page