Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Review: Blue Nights by Joan Didion

Joan Didion reading to her daughter via
Reviewed by Ingrid

Published: 2012

It's about: Joan Didion's most recent memoir is about the death of her only daughter, Quintana Roo, who died in 2005 at the age of 39. While similar in subject matter to her last memoir, A Year of Magical Thinking, which was about grieving after her husband's death just a few years before, Blue Nights is quite different. This memoir doesn't have a clear narrative arc like Magical Thinking did, but is composed of fragments of memories about her daughter as well as observations about life, motherhood and aging.

I thought: Oh, blah. What can I say. I'm just in love with Joan Didion. She makes motherhood sound very appealing, which is especially impressive to this child-phobic reader. She somehow is able to capture those small, meaningful moments that we almost don't notice when they are happening but end up creating the person we are.  Didion has an introspective style that comes across as deeply yet carefully thought through, which is the one thing I most love about her writing. I also love fragmentation and subjectivity, especially in the case of a memoir that deals with thoughts, memories, and emotions that are often experienced fragmentally (is that a word? Something tells me no...) I love when the form of a text corresponds to the way one experiences its subject matter. Yep, I think I'm turning into one of those weirdies who actually likes postmodernism. Or maybe I just like New Journalism, which I just learned how Didion's writing is usually categorized.

Didion with her daughter and husband
on their porch in Malibu
Verdict: Stick it on the shelf. 

Reading Recommendations: If you tried A Year of Magical Thinking and didn't love it, give Blue Nights a chance. It's not as sad (and it's shorter.)

Warnings: None.

Favorite excerpts:

"The oleander branch on which she swings is familiar, the curve of the beach on which she kicks through the wash is familiar. The clothes of course are familiar. I had for a while seen them every day, washed them, hung them to blow in the wind on the clotheslines outside my office window. I wrote two books watching her clothes blow on those lines."

What I'm reading next: Wild by Cheryl Strayed