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When Didion nailed Reagan

Joan Didion’s After Henry, published in 1992, is an overlooked collection. Its obscurity is a shame, if only because its first essay, “In the Realm of the Fisher King,” is so pleasurably perceptive. The essay, an abridged version of which first appeared in 1989 in the New York Review of Books under the title “Life at Court,” gives the Reagan administration the full treatment. More than twenty years hence, the piece remains a trenchant account of the political-economic shift to dedicated neoliberalism in the halls of government. Didion drives home just how complete and intentional that transformation was, and how Reagan’s peculiar combination of disengagement and charm formed the conditions for the flourishing of a new American economic doctrine.

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