Joan Didion’s new memoir Blue Nights is above all a story of survival, though as the literary lioness states, there are times when other outcomes seem more desirable.

Didion, whose appeal (as the Economist notes) has always been searing insight mixed with tarnished glamour, looks back on a long and often difficult life leavened by charmed decades when she seemed on top of the world.

However, Didion, as always, deftly punctures the facade of the “perfect” life—especially her own.

Author Joan Didion and her Corvette in Malibu in 1970

For instance, there was 1970 (above), when her brilliant novel Play It As It Lays was published and she treated herself to a wicked Corvette Stingray exactly like the one driven by her “heroine” in the book.

The first ‘Vette to feature removable T-top r roof panels, the new Stingray was a suitably sexy ride for a beautiful author with a new house in Malibu overlooking the Pacific.

Unfortunately, king snakes liked to roost in the rafters of the garage and drop into the open car just as she was heading out for a cruise.

A fitting metaphor, it seems, for the fallacy of “having it all” in Didion Land…