I have recently fallen in love with Joan Didion's work. Here is my review of her newest memoir, Blue Nights. My review first appeared in and was published by Rachael Magazine.
Joan Didion’s latest memoir, Blue Nights, beautifully
portrays her conversation with herself about the life and death of her
daughter, Quintana Roo Dunne, in which she comes to terms with her loss
and the fears that develop as a result of it. Although her grief is
evident in her writing, her language is inviting, with the words and
sentences flowing together in an honest but frail colloquy. Nonlinear
and full of questions, Didion’s heartache and anguish are apparent in
the way she knits her thoughts together.
More than just a book about the loss of her daughter, and the
affliction that ensues, Didion’s memoir delves deeper and reveals the
emotional complications that arise as a result of it. Fifty pages in,
Didion confronts the real subject of the book, confessing to the reader
that what folds in and unifies the memoir is the topic of fear, “this
refusal even to engage in such contemplation, this failure to confront
the certainties of aging, illness, and death” (page 54). She is afraid
of illness, and of death, which are inevitable. Although she tells the
reader that memories don’t bring “solace,” that they only remind us of
what we have lost when we no longer want to remember, she is afraid of
losing the memories (page 64). She is afraid that the inevitable aging
of her body and the illness it could bring will take away her ability to
remember and to write.
Didion’s prose is equally private and public, reflecting moments of
pain she feels deep in her soul, describing memories and feelings, and
yet letting the reader in to share in her despair. The title, Blue Nights,
is an illustration of her inability to think about anything other than
the “inevitable approach of darker days” (page 134). The end of her book
does not bring about a resolution or any sort of peace with the subject
of her fear: “The fear is not for what is lost…the fear is for what is
still to be lost” (page 188).
I highly recommend this book, to all those who love literature and appreciate the written word. It's a fantastic read. It has taught me to pay close attention to words as I use them to create sentences, paragraphs, stories, and most of all, to pay close attention to life.