The Uptown Local: Joy, Death, and Joan Didion: A Memoir (Hardcover)

The Uptown Local: Joy, Death, and Joan Didion: A Memoir By Cory Leadbeater Cover Image
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A brilliant debut memoir about a young writer—struggling with depression, family issues, and addiction—and his life-changing decade working for Joan Didion

As an aspiring novelist in his early twenties, Cory Leadbeater was presented with an opportunity to work for a well-known writer whose identity was kept confidential. Since the tumultuous days of childhood, Cory had sought refuge from the rougher parts of life in the pages of books. Suddenly, he found himself the personal assistant to a titan of literature: Joan Didion.

In the nine years that followed, Cory shared Joan’s rarefied world, transformed not only by her blazing intellect but by her generous friendship and mentorship. Together they recited poetry in the mornings, dined with Supreme Court justices, attended art openings, smoked a single cigarette before bed.

But secretly, Cory was spiraling. He reeled from the death of a close friend. He spent his weekends at a federal prison, visiting his father as he served time for fraud. He struggled day after day to write the novel that would validate him as a real writer. And meanwhile, the forces of addiction and depression loomed large.

In hypnotic prose that pulses with life and longing, The Uptown Local explores the fault lines of class, family, loss, and creativity. It is a love letter to a cultural icon—and a moving testament to the relationships that sustain us in the eternal pursuit of a life worth living. 

About the Author

Cory Leadbeater received his MFA in fiction from Columbia in 2014, where he was the recipient of the Jacob P. Waletzky Fellowship. Before that, he attended Trinity College, where he was the recipient of the Fred Pfeil Memorial Prize in Creative Writing, the John Curtis Underwood Memorial Prize in Poetry, and the Ruel Crompton Tuttle Prize in Scholarship. He lives in New Jersey with his family.

Praise For…

“Cory Leadbeater writes with beauty, precision and velocity and The Uptown Local is a memoir like no other. It’s the story of his relationship with a great American writer, but it’s also the saga of his family’s dark struggle with 21st century American realities, not to mention his own terrifying years of grief, addiction and depression. Leadbeater exposes all of his demons with wit and poetic intensity, but underneath his calamities we also discover a young man from a tough town whose life was saved by literature, by art, by music, and by the mentorship of those who’d come this way before him. Leadbeater’s passion to create proves a worthy match for his self-destructive urges, but the final piece of the puzzle will always be love. Leadbeater’s path to this wisdom, earned as a caregiver, partner and father, is the final, breathtaking flowering in this remarkable book.” — Sam Lipsyte, author of No One Left To Come Looking For You

The Uptown Local is a beautifully written and deeply moving memoir about how identity is reimagined through art, and how one writer came to understand himself amid the painful constraints of class and trauma.  It is also about an intimate, tender, and unlikely friendship. And finally, it is a kind of love letter to the complexities of New York City, the miraculous place where everything seems possible.”
Dana Spiotta, author of Wayward

“It has been a long time since I've read a memoir this poignant and intimate. As much a remembrance of Joan Didion as it is an inquiry into how we create—relationships, art, and finally one's self—The Uptown Local is a beautiful, heartrending book."
Cristina Henríquez, author of The Great Divide

“A piercing, erudite, deeply felt exploration of life and art, desire and loss, of choosing to seek out and make what’s beautiful against all odds, Cory Leadbeater’s The Uptown Local grabbed me by the throat and held me up close to all life’s layers: love, hate, birth, and death. I felt grateful, moved, richer because of its unrelenting clarity and force.” — Lynn Steger Strong, author of Want

“Something beautiful and lasting has been made: The Uptown Local. Cory Leadbeater’s debut memoir on an aspiring writer’s dream employment is a brilliant achievement: a consummately loving portrait of a great writer and a deeply flawed father and son. Leadbeater makes exquisite examination of depressions, terrors, and Death, yet the Joy part is wonderful and true.”
Christine Schutt, author of Pure Hollywood

The Uptown Local renders the dizzying, sometimes painful experience of becoming yourself in prose that perfectly mirrors the story at its heart: at once tender and brutal, surreal and direct, cerebral and visceral. Here, the contradictions of a bifurcated life are not smoothed over, but pulled apart and examined with curiosity, rigor, and love. A spectacular debut."
Lilly Dancyger, author of First Love

"More than a tender ode to Joan Didion, Cory Leadbeater honors her memory by taking seriously an imperative central in her work: we must face hard truths to know ourselves. The Uptown Local is a beautiful catalogue of twin yearnings: to be seen and to disappear; to belong everywhere and nowhere; to go forth and to return home, and--above all else--to love and to be loved." — Chloé Cooper Jones, two-time finalist for the Pulitzer Prize and author of Easy Beauty.

“Leadbeater debuts with a stirring account of his time working for Joan Didion in the final years of her life…This gloriously written recollection does right by Didion.”
Publishers Weekly (starred review)

Product Details
ISBN: 9780063371576
ISBN-10: 006337157X
Publisher: Ecco
Publication Date: June 11th, 2024
Pages: 224
Language: English