Wednesday, May 11, 2011
159. the YEAR of MAGICAL THINKING
Joan Didion 2006
While her only child Quintana lays unconscious in an ICU at a New York hospital, the author's husband John, suddenly dies from a massive heart attack. In this unforgettable memoir, the author writes so honestly (and perfectly) about the difficult first year after the tragic event. She missses him. She grieves. She mourns. She wants him back. I cannot even begin to fathom how heavy her heart must feel (and still feels) everyday.
'Life changes fast.
Life changes in the instant.
You sit down to dinner and life as you know it ends.
The question of self-pity.'(opening lines)
'As a writer, even as a child, long before what I wrote began to be published, I developed a sense that meaning itself was resident in the rhythms of words and sentences and paragraphs, a technique for withholding whatever it was I thought or believed behind an increasingly impenetrable polish. The way I write is who I am, or have become, yet this is a case in which I wish I had instead of words and rhythms a cutting room, equipped with an Avid, a digital editing system on which I could touch a key and collapse the sequence of time, show you simultaneously all the frames of memory that come to me now, let you pick the takes, the marginally different expressions, the variant readings of the same lines. This is a case in which I need more than words to find the meaning. This is the case in which I need whatever it is I think or believe to be penetrable, if only for myself.'(7-8)
'Grief, when it comes, is nothing we expect it to be.... What I felt in each instance was sadness, loneliness (the loneliness of the abandoned child of whatever age), regret for time gone by, for things unsaid, for my inability to share even in any real way to acknowledge, at the end, the pain and helplessness and physical humiliation they each endured. '(26-27)
'Grief is different. Grief has no distance. Grief comes in waves, paroxysms, sudden apprehensions that weaken the knees and blind the eyes and obliterate the dailiness of life.'(27)
'... but I needed that first night to be alone.
I needed to be alone so that he could come back.
This was the beginning of my year of magical thinking.'(33)
'Why do you always have to be right.
Why do you always have to have the last word.
For once in your life just let it go.'(141)
'Did mothers always try to press on their daughters the itineraries of which they themselves had dreamed?
'Why didn't I listen when he said we weren't having any fun?
Why didn't I move to change our life?'(186)
'Grief turns out to be a place none of us know until we reach it.'(188)
'Nor can we know ahead of the the fact (and here lies the heart of the difference between grief as we imagine it and grief as it is) the unending absence that follows, the void, the very opposite of meaning, the relentless succession of moments during which we will confront the experience of meaninglessness itself.'(189)
'Marriage is memory, marriage is time.'(197)
'We are imperfect mortal beings, aware of that mortality even as we push it away, failed by our very complication, so wired that when we mourn our losses we also mourn, for better or for worse, ourselves. As we were. As we no longer are. As we will one day not be at all.'(198)
'Time is the school in which we learn.'(198)
First Vintage International Edition 1997
Book qualifies for: 100+Reading Challenge