by Joan Didion
This most recent of Didion’s books is the first I’ve read. (This is somewhat surprising, as my sweetie frequently urges me to read Didion, one of her favorite authors. I don’t really have a good reason I haven’t done so until now.) You know going in that this will not be an easy book: it is about the death of her daughter.
As much as this book is about her daughter, it is also about questioning assumptions and decisions, and it is about aging. Didion seems surprised to find herself in her seventies and no longer immune to the frailties and indignities associated with becoming or being old. She is a tiny person, appearing delicate and from the vantage point of 40s, older — and razor sharp, and not likely to suffer fools gladly. At a reading we attended, she ended some less than useful paths during the Q&A with a definite yet not quite discourteous “thank you” followed by silence.
I was surprised at how willing Didion is to cast herself in unflattering light. I suppose I shouldn’t have been: what she is really after is a relentless pursuit of the truth, of figuring out what things mean, and writing her way there. Which is probably why my sweetie has urged me to read her work for so long.