Saturday, May 18th 2013Tweet
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Friday, December 21st 2012
Joan Didion photographed by Julian Wasser in 1972
Monday, July 30th 2012
Joan Didion, On Keeping a Notebook/Slouching Towards Bethlehem (via sherry)
Monday, July 9th 2012
“Life changes in the instant. The ordinary instant.”
― Joan Didion, The Year of Magical Thinking
Monday, June 25th 2012
Sunday, November 13th 2011
Joan Didion remembers her distaste for being a child and her yearning for a glamorous, grown up life.
I never had much interest in being a child. As a way of being it seemed flat, failed to engage. When I was in fact a child, six and seven and eight years old, I was utterly baffled by the enthusiasm with which my cousin Brenda, a year and a half younger, accepted her mother’s definition of her as someone who needed to go to bed at six-thirty and finish every bite of three vegetables, one of them yellow, with every meal. Brenda was also encouraged to make a perfect white sauce, and to keep a chart showing a gold star for every time she brushed her teeth. I, meanwhile, was trying to improve the dinner hour by offering what I called “lettuce cocktails” (a single leaf of iceberg lettuce and crushed ice in a stemmed glass), and inventing elaborate scenarios featuring myself as an adult, specifically an adult 24 years old, an age on which I settled because my mother had assured me that 24 was the best, her favorite year.
Sunday, October 16th 2011
Joan Didion - Vanity Fair by Annie Leibovitz, November 2011
In The Year of Magical Thinking, the 2005 best-seller, Joan Didion dissected the trauma of losing her husband, John Gregory Dunne. With Blue Nights, to be published in November by Knopf, she agonizingly explores the heavier blow that followed: the death of their daughter, Quintana Roo. Christopher Hitchens contemplates a tragic achievement.
Like the experience of warfare, the endurance of grave or terminal illness involves long periods of tedium and anxiety, punctuated by briefer interludes of stark terror and pain. This endurance need not necessarily be one’s own: indeed, the experience of watching over a sibling or mate in extremis can be even more acute. But nothing, according to the experts, compares to the clutching, choking nightmare that engulfs the one who is slowly bereft of a child.
It is horrible to see oneself die without children. Napoléon Bonaparte said that. What greater grief can there be for mortals than to see their children dead. Euripides said that. When we talk about mortality we are talking about our children. I said that.
Joan Didion, here slightly syncopating in the Bob Dylan manner, has striven with intense dignity and courage in Blue Nights to deepen and extend the effect of The Year of Magical Thinking, her 2005 narrative of the near-simultaneous sudden death of her husband, John Gregory Dunne, and the onset of the fatal illness of their daughter, Quintana Roo Dunne Michael. In the course of setting it down, she came to realize that she could no longer compose in the old style: the one that she had “supposed to be like writing music.”
And what kind of music could this have been, except the Blues? But blue is more than the shade of a symphony. It is where the “bolt” comes from, as Didion mordantly notes. It can register the transit of an entire evening, from the first, faint translucent gloaming to the near-inky cerulean black.
The long day wanes along a spectrum of blue. So did the short life of the keen, merry girl, who wasn’t too spoiled by showbiz or room service, who shrewdly opposed her mother’s choice of poem at her father’s memorial service. And whose solemn recommendation about death was “Don’t dwell on it.”
That last choice is not available to her mother:
Pass into nothingness: the Keats line that frightened her.
Fade as the blue nights fade, go as the brightness goes.
Go back into the blue.
I myself placed her ashes in the wall.
I myself saw the cathedral doors locked at six.
I know what it is I am now experiencing.
I know what the frailty is, I know what the fear is.
The fear is not for what is lost.
What is lost is already in the wall.
What is lost is already behind the locked doors.
The fear is for what is still to be lost.
You may see nothing still to be lost.
Yet there is no day in her life on which I do not see her.
In this supremely tender work of memory, Didion is paradoxically insistent that as long as one person is condemned to remember, there can still be pain and loss and anguish.