Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Thank A Writer Post: Joan Didion

 This is the first of five posts in a series of thank-you notes to writers. The project was started by Maggie Mason of Go Mighty and Nathan Bransford.

Dear Ms. Didion,

Between my 38th birthday and my 39th a lot of bad things happened to me. About six months after that my mother gave me a copy of The Year of Magical Thinking. It was in a stack of books she picked up somewhere--the thrift shop or a library sale; of no particular significance. I devoured it and then became consumed with it.

"Hey, I just read The Year of Magical Thinking," I said to a small gathering of friends, and they all turned to me nodding, in much the way that you would nod to someone who had just said "Hey, I just started using deodorant!"

It contains some of the best descriptions I have ever read about, yes, the way one feels when life becomes a waking nightmare--but also, the way other people treat you under those circumstances. Especially in the hospital. I have no doubt that while I was screaming and dying inside I was considered a pretty cool customer.

So then I read Slouching Towards Bethlehem and recognized the reflections on the Santa Ana winds, which my father brings up often, being like so many men a bit of a weather fanatic. I picked up "What a thing to wear to Ralphs," a phrase that flits through my mind daily during the summer in my shore town.

I want to thank you for so vividly bringing to life both the ordinary--the daily viewing of a TV show shared with your husband--and the extraordinary, the way that one's husband can suddenly cease to be.

I carry your words in my heart.

1 comment:

LeesMyth said...

Slouching Towards Bethlehem contains one of my all-time favorite essays, "On Self-Respect."

(Another one right up there at the top of the list is GK Chesterton's "On Chasing After One's Hat.")