As much as I love Joan Didion, I don't think I can read Blue Nights.

Christopher Hitchens' words with an Annie Liebovitz photo create a stunning portrait of Joan Didion in the October issue of Vanity Fair. Included is this compelling moment from Blue Nights, Didion's forthcoming book about the death of her daughter:

Pass into nothingness: the Keats line that frightened her.

Fade as the blue nights fade, go as the brightness goes.

Go back into the blue.

I myself placed her ashes in the wall.

I myself saw the cathedral doors locked at six.

I know what it is I am now experiencing.

I know what the frailty is, I know what the fear is.

The fear is not for what is lost.

What is lost is already in the wall.

What is lost is already behind the locked doors.

The fear is for what is still to be lost.

You may see nothing still to be lost.

Yet there is no day in her life on which I do not see her.
I loved The Year of Magical Thinking for one reason: reading it made me a better writer. The craft and soul of Joan Didion's writing is a legitimate superpower. It's X-ray vision. The ability to fly. Leap tall buildings. Spin Earth backwards on its axis.

Weirdly, what's healing in that book is the lack of cowtowing to the expectation that some healing element should be included in a book about grief. It's a book that honors the humbling enormity of grief and never insults that by hinting at any mechanism for coping with it. So I'm worried that Blue Nights is going to be that cubed. I just don't think I can have that superpower unleashed on me when it's pointed directly at a fear so deeply, terrifyingly visceral I can't even name it.

When my kids were little, I did the "Now I lay me down to sleep" thing with them every night, but I left out the part about "if I should die before I wake..." I have no fear of my own death. I feel certain my soul will live on. I'm not at all certain my soul would survive what Didion has experienced, and I don't have it in me right now to go there vicariously or even as a voyeur. This is like grief porn. It's unbearably graphic.

Maybe later. I pre-ordered, so it'll be sent to my Nook on the release date. I might do the entirely chickenshit thing and read it backwards so I get the benefit of the craft skill without taking the blunt force body slam of the narrative. More likely, I'll look away, look at my beautiful daughter and focus on life, and if that makes me a wimpy Pollyanna, hey man, tra la la.

Popular Posts

Do not compromise, for only the valiant can create. ~ Frank Capra

Browse by topic...

#Alzheimers #BloodCancerAwarenessMonth #dementia #howilibrary #MothersDay #sxsw #yougottohavefriends alternative cancer treatment Amazon American Cancer Society anger art ask ashley astroid galaxy tour autotune Bald in the Land of Big Hair bee gees bernie blood cancer Blood Cancer Awareness Month blue mercy blues brothers book review boxer rebellion cancer carnet de voyage CASUAL VACANCY cat stevens chemo brain chemotherapy chevy ssr City of Dark Magic climate change coping with cancer craig thompson Crazy for Trying crazy on you dave brubeck declaration of independence deep cotton did you feel like going like that dinah washington Django rheinhardt Dune dwight okita earth to joni english Enough About Me environment erica jong europe family far enough from heaven farewell summer fear of flying feminism First You Write free book gabby gifford garden of your mind ghostwriting gloria estefan gloria gaynor go with god gore vidal gotta get a message to you graphic novel grateful dead great words hanging by a thread happy holidays have a listen heart HIPPIE BOY homeopathic care hunger games hurricane isaac I feel better now I'll Have What She's Reading I'm So Effing 50 IFTTT iggy pop indie love Indie Pub Adventure Ingrid Ricks Instagram J.A. Konrath James Joyce jeff zaslow JK Rowling Joni's List just sayin kenton nelson kickstarter kill smartie breedlove kindle freebie lead zep League of Extraordinary Authors led zeppelin legitimate rape Leukemia Lymphoma Society life life in general lisa hamilton literary fiction love love and other natural disasters lymphoma Lymphoma Reasearch Foundation Magnus Flyte mavis staples memoir Merry Christmas most awesome thing ever mother daughter movie mr. rogers Music My Memories of a Future Life mystery Nancy G Brinker nerdgasm nina simone non sequitur nora ephron orna ross Orts and Excerpts parenting with cancer people being people photobomb Planned Parenthood poetry politics Promise Me prospect of my arrival publishing news random loveliness ray bradbury red cross Relay for Life remix research rabbit holes richard III richard linklater robin gibb Roz Morris sex shakespeare slide whistle social support Something Awful stairway to heaven stella link books stella's umbrella Sugarland survivorship Susan G Komen for the Cure sxsw sylvia plath that explains a lot The Book Biz The Hurricane Lover the last lecture The Secret Sisters theme song du jour todd akin Trailer Park travel unfairly awesome waking life william Gay woo woo writing craft yeats you've got mail