Archives for posts with tag: Joan Didion

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“When I’m working on a book, I constantly retype my own sentences. Every day, I go back to page one and just retype what I have. It gets me into a rhythm.” JOAN DIDION

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“I have never started a novel — I mean, except the first, when I was starting a novel just to start a novel — I’ve never written one without rereading Victory [by Joseph Conrad]. It opens up the possibilities of a novel. It makes it seem worth doing.” JOAN DIDION

Note: VICTORY by Joseph Conrad is available free in a variety of versions (including Kindle) at Project Gutenberg. Find it here. Conrad scholar Debra Romanick called the book, originally published in 1916, “…a highly complex allegorical work whose psychological landscape and narrative structure set the groundwork for the modern novel…”

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“I write entirely to find out what I’m thinking, what I’m looking at, what I see and what it means. What I want and what I fear.”  JOAN DIDION

Many years ago, after reading Joan Didion‘s account of her migraine headaches, I wrote her a letter in care of her publisher, offering some remedies for the affliction. (For decades, I, too, was a sufferer). She wrote back on beautiful “Joan Dunne” stationery thanking me for my letter and wishing me a Happy New Year.

I’m thrilled to see that Ms. Didion is still writing (at age 78) — and, as always, writing clear, beautiful prose.  She reads from her most recent book, Blue Nights (2011), at this link.

Happy birthday!

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BLUE NIGHTS (Excerpt)

Memoir by Joan Didion

In certain latitudes there comes a span of time approaching and following the summer solstice, some weeks in all, when the twilights turn long and blue. This period of the blue nights does not occur in subtropical California…but it does occur in New York…. You notice it first as April ends and May begins, a change in the season, not exactly a warming—in fact not at all a warming—yet suddenly summer seems near, a possibility, even a promise. You pass a window, you walk to Central Park, you find yourself swimming in the color blue: the actual light is blue, and over the course of an hour or so this blue deepens, becomes more intense even as it darkens and fades, approximates finally the blue of the glass on a clear day at Chartres…. The French call this time of day “l’heure bleue.” To the English it is “the gloaming…” During the blue nights you think the end of day will never come….

Painting: “Ladder to the Moon” by Georgia O’Keeffe (1958)

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In 2011, journalist Hari Kunzru interviewed Joan Didion for a British magazine and covered many topics, including  her 1969 Corvette Stingray, made famous in photographs Julian Wasser shot for Life Magazine in 1972. Here are some excerpts. (Find more at this link.)

HK: I read an old interview with you this morning, from when you were living in California [‘Joan Didion: Staking out California’ –  Michiko Kakutani, Joan Didion, Essays and Conversations] which said that the 1969 Yellow Corvette Sting Ray Maria drives in Play It As It Lays was actually your car.

JD: It was my car.

HK: Do you still feel connected to that woman? The woman who drove along the coast road to Malibu in a Yellow Corvette Sting Ray?

JD: No. At some point in the past year I think I twigged to the fact that I was no longer the woman in the Yellow Corvette. Very recently. It wasn’t five years ago.

HK: When you said you ‘twigged to that’, was that a moving on, a sense of loss –

JD: Actually, when John died, for the first time I thought – for the first time I realized how old I was, because I’d always thought of myself – when John was alive I saw myself through his eyes and he saw me as how old I was when we got married – and so when he died I kind of looked at myself in a different way. And this has kept on since then. The yellow corvette. When I gave up the yellow corvette, I literally gave up on it, I turned it in on a Volvo station wagon [laughs]

HK: [laughing] That’s quite an extreme maneuver.

JD: The dealer was baffled.

HK: The Corvette driver would mutate into the Volvo driver. Was that because you were leaving California?

JD: No, we had just moved in from Malibu in to Brentwood. I needed a new car because with the Corvette something was always wrong, but I didn’t need a Volvo station wagon. Maybe it was the idea of moving into Brentwood.

HK: You were really trying to embody that suburban role. So the Corvette was the car you were driving down the foggy road and trying to work out where the turn for your drive was, and where was just a steep cliff.

JD: Yes.

Photo: “Joan Didion and her 1969 yellow Corvette Stingray” Julian Wasser (1972), ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

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THE WHITE ALBUM (Excerpt)

Essay by Joan Didion

We tell ourselves stories in order to live. The princess is caged in the consulate. The man with the candy will lead the children into the sea…We interpret what we see, select the most workable of multiple choices. We live entirely, especially if we are writers, by the imposition of a narrative line upon disparate images, by the “ideas” with which we have learned to freeze the shifting phantasmagoria which is our actual experience. Or at least we do for a while. I am talking here about a time when I began to doubt the premises of all the stories I had ever told myself…this period began around 1966 and continued until 1971…

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Find The White Album (1979), a book of 20 essays by Joan Didion  at Amazon.com.

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LOS ANGELES NOTEBOOK (Excerpt)

Essay by Joan Didion

There is something uneasy in the Los Angeles air this afternoon, some unnatural stillness, some tension. What it means is that tonight a Santa Ana will begin to blow, a hot wind from the northeast whining down through the Cajon and San Gorgonio Passes, blowing up sandstorms out along Route 66, drying the hills and the nerves to the flashpoint. For a few days now we will see smoke back in the canyons, and hear sirens in the night…It is hard for people who have not lived in Los Angeles to realize how radically the Santa Ana figures in the local imagination. The city burning is Los Angeles’s deepest image of itself…Los Angeles weather is the weather of catastrophe, of apocalypse, and….the violence and the unpredictability of the Santa Ana affect the entire quality of life in Los Angeles, accentuate its impermanence, its unreliability. The wind shows us how close to the edge we are.

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LOS ANGELES NOTEBOOK (Excerpt)

Essay by Joan Didion

It is three o’clock on a Sunday afternoon and 105 degrees and the air so thick with smog that the dusty palm trees loom up with a sudden and rather attractive mystery. I have been playing in the sprinklers with the baby and I get in the car and go to Ralphs Market on the corner of Sunset and Fuller wearing an old bikini bathing suit. This is not a very good thing to wear to the market but neither is it, at Ralphs on the corner of Sunset and Fuller, an unusual costume. Nonetheless a large woman in a cotton muumuu jams her cart into mine at the butcher counter. “What a thing to wear to the market,” she says in a loud but strangled voice. Everyone looks the other way and I study a plastic package of rib lamb chops and she repeats it. She follows me all over the store, to the Junior Foods, to the Dairy Products, to the Mexican Delicacies, jamming my cart whenever she can. Her husband plucks at her sleeve. As I leave the checkout counter, she raises her voice one last time: “What a thing to wear to Ralphs,” she says.

“Los Angeles Notebook” by Joan Didion is found in her collection of essays Slouching Toward Bethlehem, available at Amazon.com.

Photo: Joan Didion and her daughter Quintana Roo Dunne photographed for Life Magazine in 1972 by Julian Wasser.