Townhouse Books

Thursday, January 12, 2006

The Year of Magical Thinking: Joan Didion

Joan Didion's unsparing memoir recounts the sudden death of her husband of 40 years, John Gregory Dunne, and the following year. In addition to that loss, their daughter Quintana was ill throughout the entire year and died shortly after the book was published.

Didion reflects on marriage, grieving, the hole in one's life left by the dead, writing, friends, her reluctance to clean out her husband's closet, because if she threw out his shoes, how could he come back? Numerous times I stopped to mull a sentence, and every few pages I stopped to gaze again at the back cover photo (below). It is an extraordinary book, painful in a way that is both honest and necessary.

I hung on to the book for a week or two after receiving it for Christmas, never sure if today was the day to begin what could be a dark read. A friend recommended reading it when I was in a bad mood and down on my life, saying that this is the kind of book that gives one perspective. He was wrong. What this book did is give me a sense of what is likely and in some ways hopefully to come. Didion didn't tell a story about the horrors of someone else's life, but articulates our own futures.

Life changes fast.
Life changes in the instant.
You sit down to dinner and life as you know it ends.
The question of self-pity.


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  • "What this book did is give me a sense of what is likely and in some ways hopefully to come." Oh, I like the way you put that.

    I got this for Christmas, too, and similarly debated over when to start it. I decided it would be so absorbing that I'd start it on a plane flight. Now, I hate flying, and am always convinced I'll end in terrifying, plummeting death. The Year of Magical Thinking turned out to be a desperately poor choice. Way too overwhelming to calm me down.

    However, slowly working my way through it, I can say that it's something most everyone should read. For its intimacy, and artistry, and centrality of subject, and on and on.

    And I ain't even finished with it yet.

    By lillygog, at 4:24 PM  

  • Who is getting you guys these miserable Christmas presents?

    By Anna, at 7:32 PM  

  • I overheard some coworkers talking abbout this and they asked me if I had ever heard of the title (or read the book). I only realised what book they were talking about when they started to describe it. I think I will read it someday if only i could remember to...


    By Jason, at 8:19 AM  

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