Viewport width =
May 14, 2012 | by  | in Arts Books |
Share on FacebookShare on Google+Pin on PinterestTweet about this on Twitter

Review – Blue Nights by Joan Didion

‘Several days before Christmas 2003, Joan Didion’s only daughter, Quintana, fell seriously ill. In 2010, Didion marked the sixth anniversary of her daughter’s death. Blue Nights is a shatteringly honest examination of Joan Didion’s life as a mother, a woman and a writer.’

It was with the expectation of infinite sadness I started Blue Nights. I don’t like biographies, at least of the living. Knowing so much, however biased, about someone leaves me arid. But I was compelled after reading Didion’s recounting of the year following the death of her husband, The Year of Magical Thinking, with its Spartan beauty, stark and essential pain, to read Blue Nights.

It was meant to be about the death of Didion’s daughter, Quintana Roo. It is about far more: mortality and memory, the life left behind and the life departed. Didion’s austere, incisive writing seems to ask how one can assess the life, let alone the death, of someone vital to your existence. What spaces are left vacant in their passing?

Death and mourning don’t make for happy reading, but when difficult and piercing subject matter is written about with such skill and honesty, it offers us a companionship and capacity for reflection that we can take with us when we ourselves are confronted with pain and loss.

How can I convince you that this is vital reading? This act of remembrance and re-visitation of experience, all reconsidered and weighed with a yearning, heartfelt intellectual struggle to understand, will tear and heal something in you.

Didion has created, through an evocation of memory, an aching, hopeful revocation of mortality. It is an incantation, beautiful and staggeringly complete, of a life. The wonder of it is that, in the end, I didn’t know whose: Didion’s or her daughter’s. They are inseparable.

Share on FacebookShare on Google+Pin on PinterestTweet about this on Twitter

About the Author ()

Comments are closed.

Recent posts

  1. Work
  2. Editorial—Issue 22, 2016
  3. I, Daniel Blake and the Welfare State
  4. Young Voters: Waking the Sleeping Giants
  5. The Sky Is Falling
  6. Tell us about Talis
  7. Vic group launch their Reclaim-munist Manifesto
  8. Bye Bye Little Karori (in two years time)
  9. Students seize opportunity to rant at Grant
  10. Binge drinking is still a bit bad for you
i-daniel-blake

Editor's Pick

I, Daniel Blake and the Welfare State

: Recently at the NZIFF I was fortunate enough to see Ken Loach’s I, Daniel Blake, this year’s winner of the Palme d’Or at Cannes. By the end of the film nearly everybody seemed to be in mourning and most of the people seated around me were sniffling and wiping their eyes. I,

Viewport width =