Apparently Joan Didion Wanted to Be an Oceanographer


A few months ago, we rounded up some of the strangest day jobs of beloved authors had before they were famous — and in the process discovered that William S. Burroughs was once an exterminator in Chicago, William Faulkner served as the postmaster at Ole Miss, and John Steinbeck ran a fish hatchery in Lake Tahoe. Today, we discovered that if Joan Didion had possessed the necessary science credits, she would have preferred to probe the depths of the ocean as opposed to those of the human psyche.

“I wanted to be an oceanographer, actually,” she reveals to Sheila Heti in in the February issue of The Believer. “And when I was out of school and living in New York and working for a magazine, I actually went out to the Scripps Institute, which is now UC San Diego, but then it was just the Scripps Institution of Oceanography, run by the University of California, and I asked them what I would have to do to become an oceanographer. And basically they said I would have to go back to high school, you know. I hadn’t taken any of the science courses that would enable me to take the science courses that I would need to take in order to go to… any place. So I abandoned the idea of being an oceanographer, but I can see myself still as an oceanographer, if I could get to that point.”

So, in case it ever comes up, now you know the one thing that Joan Didion has in common with 30 Rock’s Jack Donaghy.