A Conversation About Loss   2 comments

The trouble with reading Joan Didion’s Blue Nights is that I feel I have
eavesdropped on a private conversation. And it’s one she’s having with

This is Didion’s most recent work since The Year of Magical Thinking. It,
like Blue Nights, focuses on loss. In the former, it was the death of her
husband, John Gregory Dunne; and in the latter, the death of their daugh-
ter Quintana Roo, also known as Q. These are heart-breaking events but
Didion candidly shares a range of emotions. She writes, “When we talk
about mortality we are talking about our children.” Then, before I can
phrase the question myself, she asks what that means. I am still not sure.

What I do know that is Didion loved her daughter. Q was adopted, an only
child, insightful and perhaps a bit frightening, as a young child, in her
assessment of situations. Didion acknowledges she was not prepared to be
a parent, although it was something she wanted. Nonetheless, much of the
book has her questioning the decisions she made as a mother – something
not necessarily unique.

Surprisingly, the book has a lot of humor, after all who names a child
Quintana Roo (after the state in Mexico)? Didion also addresses the issue
of growing old, of experiencing physical decline. Overall, the strength
lies in her descriptions of those moments that set one family apart from
another: memories. In doing so, she may not be talking to herself as much
as thinking out loud.

Three and a half Bookmarks
Alfred A. Knopf, 2011
188 pages


Posted December 4, 2011 by bluepagespecial in Books

2 responses to “A Conversation About Loss

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  1. such a beautifully written and sad book…wouldn’t recommend for someone who anticipates a blue Christmas already. Have always loved Joan Didion, agree that her writing in all of her work does suggest the feeling of eavesdropping.

  2. You’re right, it’s not an uplifting book. Still, it does reflect Didion’s indomitable spirit.

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