From one of our most powerful writers, a work of stunning frankness about losing a daughter. Richly textured with bits of her own childhood and married life with her husband, John Gregory Dunne, and daughter, Quintana Roo, this new book by Joan Didion examines her thoughts, fears, and doubts regarding having children, illness, and growing old.
Blue Nights opens on July 26, 2010, as Didion thinks back to Quintana's wedding in New York seven years before. Today would be her wedding anniversary. This fact triggers vivid snapshots of Quintana's childhood - in Malibu, in Brentwood, at school in Holmby Hills. Reflecting on her daughter but also on her role as a parent, Didion asks the candid questions any parent might about how she feels she failed either because cues were not taken or perhaps displaced. "How could I have missed what was clearly there to be seen?" Finally, perhaps we all remain unknown to each other. Seamlessly woven in are incidents Didion sees as underscoring her own age, something she finds hard to acknowledge, much less accept.
Blue Nights - the long, light evening hours that signal the summer solstice, "the opposite of the dying of the brightness, but also its warning" - like The Year of Magical Thinking before it, is an iconic book of incisive and electric honesty, haunting and profoundly moving.
"Joan Didion's writing seems to get more brittle with the passing of time; Blue Nights was just so depressing that even I, a fan of the downbeat and melancholy, felt bludgeoned by the sheer bleakness of it. Writers like Alice Munro and Margaret Atwood are doing a much better (and livelier!) job of mining similar territory, i.e., aging, the passing of time, family relationships, etc." - Marnie Colton
"[F]ull of fury and fragility and yet somehow anaemic... Even the passages where [Quintana] might have come to life are rendered needlessly brittle by Didion's stabbing, birdlike prose with its constant repetitions and exhortations such as 'Do note...' and 'Let me repeat...' Where the book is most successful - and most poignant - is in the viciously honest picture Didion draws of a lonely, encroaching old age." - The Guardian (UK)
"Essential reading for anyone who has ever mourned, has fretted as a parent, or simply loves good writing - that is, nearly all of us." - Library Journal
"Starred Review. The book feels like an epitaph for both her daughter and herself, as she considers how much aging has demolished her preconceptions about growing old... A slim, somber classic." - Kirkus Reviews
"Starred Review. Didion continually demonstrates her keen survival instincts, and her writing is, as ever, truculent and mesmerizing, scrutinizing herself as mercilessly as she stares down death." - Publishers Weekly
"...Didion is courageous in both her candor and artistry, ensuring that this infinitely sad yet beguiling book of distilled reflections and remembrance is graceful and illuminating in its blue musings." - Booklist
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Rated of 5
Didion's Pretensions Turnoff
Absolutely, she knows how to write and absolutely has a worthy subject for introspection -- the death of her adopted daughter. But I must admit I couldn't get past her pretentious descriptions of places, literature, little cakes, whatever... Who cares? Surely, she gives her reading audience more credit or does she really think she's impressing?
I found it an obstacle -- or then again, maybe it wasn't if I had interpreted as a look into Didion's character.
Joan Didion is the highly respected author of five novels, 11 non-fiction books (including Slouching Towards Bethlehem and Political Fictions), and five screenplays co-authored with her husband John Gregory Dunne (including A Star is Born and Up Close & Personal). Her chronicle of the year after her husband died, The Year of Magical Thinking won the 2005 National Book Award (USA). She was born in California and lives in New York City.
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