#13 – The Year of Magical Thinking by Joan Didion

“Given that grief remained the most general of afflictions its literature seemed remarkably spare. … There were, in classical ballets, the moments when one or another abandoned lover tries to find and resurrect one or another loved one, the blued light, the white tutus, the pas de deux with the loved one that foreshadows the final return to the dead: la danse des ombres, the dance of the shades.”

The Year of Magical Thinking is Joan Didion’s pas de deux with her dead husband in a sense. This book’s energy comes from the tension between Didion’s desire to be a “cool customer,” the elegant, detached observer who narrates her nonfiction, and her very real need to mourn her husband.

I cried a lot reading this book, even though is basically the opposite of sentimental. Maybe because of that. I started to think about how it will when I lose someone close to me. Hasn’t happened yet, for which I am grateful every day. When it does I might reach for this book.

Extra credit:

Where I Was From is also excellent. That Didion’s account of California — and the idea of California — attempts to make sense of both Thomas Kinkade and the prison guard lobby is pretty amazing. A thought-provoking, beautiful book I want to read again.


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