Monday, March 5, 2012

My thoughts about Didion's Blue Nights - probably just sour grapes?

Joan Didion


I’m sure this is what you’d call sour grapes. I’ve just finished reading, Joan Didion’s latest book, Blue Nights, about the death of her daughter, Quintana Roo. I read The Year of Magical Thinking and was mesmerized by it, but Blue Nights just didn’t register.

Didion suffered two losses recently – her husband and her only daughter – and relatively close together. What she has been through has been horrible. And, I am so glad she, as I did, found writing helpful.

Hers is indeed grief literature. I know because I wrote about my son’s death and our family’s aftermath in my memoir, Leaving the Hall Light On – also grief literature. But, I found Didion’s Blue Nights too caught up with Minton plates, Chanel suits, champagne flutes, her various homes in the privileged areas of Hollywood, Malibu, Holmby Hills, and New York. She also muses about clothes from Bendel’s and Holly Harp and that Quintana had sixty dresses hanging in her closet at the time of her Christening. Finally she ponders the wrinkles in her skin and that she is so shaky on her feet now, she can no longer wear her red suede shoes with the four-inch heels.

And she goes on and on about all this over and over again. This is a tiny book. Without the repetition I suspect it would be half the size.

I’m sorry I cannot relate. Mainly because of all the reviews and publicity that this book got compared to mine – that’s where the sour grapes come in. It’s probably how most of us unknown writers feel about the recognition celebrities get for their work – even if the work is inferior. Perhaps if Didion had included more details about Quintana and her illness, I might have found this book more satisfying.

1 comment:

Ann Best said...

Well, of course she got the publicity because of who she is. I love reading her essays of the Sixties, collected in a small paperback I still have called Slouching Toward Bethlehem (1968). The essays profoundly move me because I lived through this time, the 60s and 70s, with my "gay" ex-husband.

She's a marvelous writer. Like you, I was spellbound by The Year of Magical Thinking. But I haven's read Blue Nights, so thanks for warning me!

Of course she established her reputation way back, so now in the aftermath of the zapped economy, with the book industry changing so drastically - well, it's hard for authors like us to get "out there." I truly empathize and sympathize with the sour grapes feeling!
Ann Best, Author of In the Mirror & Other Memoirs