Tuesday, January 02, 2007

The Year of Magical Thinking by Joan Didion

I just finished The Year of Magical Thinking by Joan Didion. I am reminded of what a genius she was. She has a special, troubled place in my heart because her writing reminds me of my mom. In "A Book of Common Prayer," the main character shares my mom's own weird combination of flinty competence and thorough denial of reality and ability to be completely dominated. Several of Didion’s other books contained similar characters, and I find some of her discussions about her relationship with Dunne in The Year of Magical Thinking to be troubling.

It’s amazing to me (and not inherently troubling) that for something like 39 of the forty years they were married, they both worked from home, sometimes on the same project. I love what Didion reports her aunt as saying: “For better or worse, but never for lunch.” Of course now its a self-help book because people can't be trusted to expand truisms on their own ( http://www.amazon.com/Better-Worse-But-Not-Lunch-Retirement/dp/0809297205 ).

Some of my other favorite quotes from the book:

"In fact I had no idea how to be a wife...[she finds a note John wrote that says] 'as we walked down the aisle, we promised each other that we could get out of this next week and not wait until death did us part.'"

She dismisses the psychological explanation of a dream about how anger creates guilt which creates anger, saying "I did not disbelieve this answer but it remains less suggestive to me than the unexamined image, the mystery of being left alone on the tarmac at Santa Monica Airport watching the planes take off one by one."

I agree. By analogy, as much as I love talking about art and meanings, I think the sensations elicited by art are generally diminished by explanation.

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