"Our truest responsibility to the irrationality of the world is to paint or sing or write, for only in such response do we find the truth." — Madeleine L'Engle
Someone a facebook friend of a friend provided that quote as an answer to a unenthusiastic NYT review of Didion’s Blue Nights. I am still living inside that book. If I did not have Julia, if the kitchen did not need my constant shopping every day this past week, I would have finished Blue Nights yesterday! As it is I contend myself with the time after Julia goes to sleep. That Quintana Roo, Didion’s daughter, was adopted, I knew. That she has mental health issues, I did not. The challenges and Didion writing about them hit me between the eyes.
My own view of the book is this -- Magical Thinking tried to make sense, come to an understand of the death of a beloved, of grief and mourning, of the world after life has fallen apart. It is emotion filled but works hard at the rational. Works hard to provide the path that the author travelled during her harrowing year after John’s death. Blue Nights abandons the rational. There is no map. There is no finding a new normal. There may never be finding a new joy. Where the John of Magical Thinking was vivid and frightenly alive, the Quintana of Blue Nights is a shadow as if her mother could not set her image down on the page too precisely. The pain is raw. The sentences complete as to be expected, but jagged with chards falling behind them. I think it will be a harder book to extract quotes from. Hard to take a chunk and talk about it in a reading group. Once sentence -- “Memories are what you no longer want to remember.” -- takes my breath away. Again, for me. This speaks. And I understand why I needed a year before I could begin this fallow year.