Friday, April 29, 2016

Admired and Feared


Joan. Saturday night.

I was sort of listening to Selected Shorts when a female voice began reading Goodbye to All That and, how does one describe the spell Joan Didion casts with her words? She is sharp, wry, and brutally honest. She cuts straight through to my heart, exposes those savage feelings I've felt and never told anyone about, and leaves a lump in my throat.

She's one of those brave unrelenting women, the type people admire and fear. You can see it in her eyes. You can hear it in her voice. I saw her live in conversation with Vendela Vida in 2011. She was 77 years old, small, but not at all frail. She was sharp, impatient, and curt.

I always feel the need to prepare myself before I read her work, but I was caught off guard this Saturday night, at home alone, husband out of town, possibly too much space for rumination. And maybe this is the best way to experience Joan Didionwithout armor.

She left that lump in my throat. She forced me to think realistically about my future, and she reminded me how fleeting each phase of my life has been. 

Nothing stays. Take nothing for granted.

27 comments:

  1. waw. this resonates with me... i must look her up. thxs. n♥

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    1. Great, n! If you go to selectedshorts.org and find the April 18, 2016 recording of the show, you can have Joan Didion's essay, Goodbye to All That, read to you, and listen to some other stories about New York City. She has a wonderful book of essays, which includes the above mentioned, Goodbye to All That. It is titled Slouching Towards Bethlehem. That should be a good start.

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  2. You have described her so well. I've read The White Album many times.

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  3. I've just listened to that essay and sit here now, watching the rain fall unexpectedly out of a previously clear sky, and can't seem to get my breath back into its proper rhythm. I knew but I also didn't prepare : now I need to work out how to tidy up those memories, emotions and complicated thoughts so as to go on as normal into this otherwise normal late afternoon...

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    1. Oh, Kate... It's kind of difficult to get your balance back after that essay. I hope you find your way through the afternoon. xx

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  4. And I admire you for digging in and finding the words to express your feelings about her. It's something I've never been able to do. I've just queued up this podcast and look forward to hearing it this weekend. (Stewart traveling.) Annie Dillard was interviewed on the most recent New Yorker Radio Hour. I felt similarly slayed.

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    1. I've been experiencing some pretty raw emotions lately and I believe those feelings helped with the digging in. I'm looking forward to the Annie Dillard interview. Thank you!

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    2. Listened to the Annie Dillard interview. Great! Thank you.

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  5. I love how you put this! I've always loved her essay "on keeping a notebook"

    Claire
    www.augustlikethemonth.blogspot.com

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    1. Thank you, Claire. I really like that essay too.

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  6. Your posting frequency may have slowed down but you certainly pack a punch when you do post. As usual, your description of the author, the story, and the emotions generated makes me want to seek out this podcast (and author)...although feeling a bit of trepidation as well given your description. Selected shorts will be on rotation for my upcoming travel -- I'll make sure this one is included.

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    1. Thanks, Rachel. I think (hope) a punch is a good thing. I totally understand your trepidation. The good news is that after listening to this essay I felt a strong sense of gratefulness for all that is good in my life right now.

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    2. It certainly is...at least in this case. So I listened to this episode of selected shorts as I made my way into canada. I'm not sure why I picked that time of the 20 hour drive...because often that is the point when it hits me that I won't be home for so long and I get quite sad. At first, I admit to not being very interested (I was hearing just the words and NYC is not a topic of interest to me...I wasn't really hearing the story). And then, all of sudden when her relationship with 'the city' changed, the story just slayed me and I felt an incredibly heavy sadness -- for so many reasons that perhaps I wasn't ready to face at that particular moment. I had to switch to a different, very light podcast. I think I may need to listen again but only when I'm a bit more prepared to do so. Surprising...

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    3. Oh no. I hope the light podcast worked.

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  7. ps -- I'm pretty taken by that direct stare. It feels very frank and very fearless with just a touch of playful to me.

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    1. Check out this one: http://www.danzigergallery.com/projects/julian-wasser

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    2. Certainly direct and certainly fearless. But that one lacks the playfulness and so it leaves me feeling a bit uneasy...such power in that photograph.

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    3. Oh yes. I agree. Uneasy for sure.

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  8. Thank you for this. Yes, I agree that reading Didion without armor is the best way. That's how I read The Year of Magical Thinking, and I still remember how raw it left me.

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    1. It seems we are on the same page. I think The White Album will be what I read next.

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  9. All that you describe must have made for a very interesting Saturday night.Didion can do that to you.

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    1. Definitely a memorable Saturday night. Worthwhile, but not something I'd want to experience every weekend.

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  10. "maybe this is the best way to experience Joan Didion—without armor."

    Yes. Yes. Yes. I think you're absolutely onto something here.

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  11. That gaze! so piercing and direct, like her writing. I'll go listen soon to the essay on selectedshorts.org--Thanks, Denise.
    I'm looking forward to the documentary that her nephew Griffin Dunne is making about her "We Tell Ourselves Stories in Order to Live."

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    1. I'm looking forward to that too, Nancy. I haven't poked around in a while to see when the release is expected. Must do so.

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