Monday, January 20, 2014

Book Notes: Joan Didion

I have read two of her books. In 2007, I chose Slouching Towards Bethlehem and years later I picked up Blue Nights. Before my blog, I kept a notebook full of book quotes and thoughts, so I pulled it out for this post.

My first reaction to Slouching Towards Bethlehem:
Her writing is interesting but it makes me feel, in an almost overwhelming way, the tediousness of life; so much despair, hopelessness, and disillusionment. Is there nothing better? I think I'll stop reading it. (But actually, I didn't.)

She says in Blue Nights, "I need to talk to you directly, I need to address the subject as it were, but something stops me. I no longer able to talk directly? Was I ever?"

To me, this quote is an apt description of her writing. She meanders and spirals and circles, but does not come to the point (as in, a straight description of "what happened." I still don't think I know why and how her daughter died.)

A quote from Slouching Towards Bethlehem:

"That was the year, my twenty-eighth, when I was discovering that not all of the promises would be kept, that some things are in fact irrevocable and that it had counted after all, every evasion and every procrastination, every mistake, every word, all of it."

Quotes from Blue Nights:

"I no longer want reminders of what was, what got broken, what got lost, what got wasted."

"When I began writing these pages I believed their subject to be children, the ones we have and the ones we wish we had, the ways in which we depend on our children to depend on us, the ways in which we encourage them to remain children, the ways in which they remain more unknown to us than they do to their most casual acquaintances; the ways in which we remain equally opaque to them."

"When we talk about mortality we are talking about our children."

She writes from a place that is unknown to me, but I like her essays. I like how she uses her voice and how the thoughts go around and around in her head with different things floating to the top. She is good at making connections. And I think I would enjoy her anyway as a fellow keeper of notebooks.

"Keepers of private notebooks are a different breed altogether, lonely and resistant rearrangers of things, anxious malcontents, children afflicted at birth with some presentiment of loss." (Slouching Towards Bethlehem)

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