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Monday, October 10, 2005

joan didion

Grief Chronicle

Acute and sensitive review of the new Joan Didion by our Sunday Seattle Times' lit ed suprema, Mary Ann Gwinn.

Current standards of book assessment and the shallow learning brought to the job being generally lamentable, it's refreshing to read it done well.

"I've never read anything by Joan Didion that didn't force me to peer hard at our fractured world and into our burdened hearts.

"The Year of Magical Thinking" may be the apotheosis of that kind of reading experience.

This is a sad and anguished book, told in some of the plainest, yet most eloquent prose you'll ever encounter.

Everyone who has ever lost anyone, or will ever lose anyone, would do well to read it."

Thanks to a cultured CEO, my old employer Secker & Warburg gave a British home to the best coming out of the States and the eminences grises I had the privilege to promote swooned at the very mention of la Didion's name. Unquestionably not just foxy features.

young joan didierI needed only to quote even the most obscure passages for the fellow scribe to launch into a detailed appreciatioin and analysis.

JD literally wrote her way back to sanity after the death of her equally brilliant husband, John Gregory Dunne.

She has a great passage:


"Writing is the only way I've ever gained clarity ... I don't go through life with a lot of clear-formed thoughts. It's not till I sit down and write that I really know what I think."

Resonated. After a difficult patch of my own in the late 1980s, I set myself the route of writing my way out of the jam and even thought of submitting it to an agent under the pretentious title of "Write to Life".

So rigorous was the routine I set and so hellish the sheer labor of putting words on the page that didn't have me writhing with contempt and despair, I emerged too impatient to get on with things to bother anyone else with the exercise.

God knows she doesn't need to but, dutiful author that she is, Ms Didion will be reading here in Seattle:

  • Nov 9 ~ 7 p.m ~ no entrance fee.
  • Seattle Central Library.
  • Tel: 206-386-4636, or webbed.

    Vaut le d├ętour.


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