I’ve known for some time that Joan Didion was in failing health and that she would probably leave us one day soon. Still, my heart was not ready for the news to come.
It absolutely took my breath.
Her work has meant so much to me for so many years.
I wrote about it here, in August of 2020:
Then, this year in June, I shared how Joan and I won an award at SCWC Writer’s Conference for that post. ❤
I’ve even added that favorite Joan quote to my body art:
I am so thankful she gifted us with an incredible body of work over her lifetime. If you have never read Joan, please, please do.
She has so many amazing pieces but I would recommend starting with these:
First, this is her essay, Slouching Toward Bethlehem, written with brutal honesty about the hippie community around the Haight in San Francisco in 1967. I encourage you to read it – but also to get the book of essays and read all the others as well. They are fantastic.
Another amazing collection of her essays is her The White Album. It was written in 1979 and is simply a do not miss.
More recently, her memoir, The Year of Magical Thinking, about the year after the sudden death of her husband, is one of her most stunning works. I can’t recommend it enough.
Finally, the book I have written about previously here, Blue Nights, which tells of the loss of her daughter, Quintana, is probably her most intimate and profound work.
Time reading Joan is always time well spent.
I am so sorry we won’t have any more to come from her – but thankful for all she left us with.
Because I am unapologetically a Joan fan girl, I’m also going to recommend her nephew’s wonderful Netflix documentary (that I will be rewatching tonight), The Center Will Not Hold.
Finally, I want to share a few of the Joan quotes I’ve saved over the years – as we’ve been together my entire writing life – that I love for different reasons. Her work is so dear to my heart.
I think we are well advised to keep on nodding terms with the people we used to be, whether we find them attractive company or not. Otherwise, they turn up unannounced and surprise us, come hammering on the mind’s door at 4 a.m. of a bad night and demand to know who deserted them, who betrayed them, who is going to make amends. We forget all too soon the things we thought we could never forget. We forget the loves and the betrayals alike, forget what we whispered and what we screamed, forget who we were. I have already lost touch with a couple of people I used to be…
— On Keeping A Notebook
I’m not optimistic, darling, but I’m hopeful. There’s a difference. I’m hopeful.
— Slouching Toward Bethlehem
It was once suggested to me that, as an antidote to crying, I put my head in a paper bag. As it happens, there is a sound physiological reason, something to do with oxygen, for doing exactly that, but the psychological effect alone is incalculable: it is difficult in the extreme to continue fancying oneself Cathy in “Wuthering Heights” with one’s head in a Food Fair bag.
― Slouching Towards Bethlehem
Rest easy, Joan. You will be so missed. ❤
Be well, everybody. Take care of yourselves and each other.
Grace and Blessings.
An Afterward – Because Joan is right and today is all there is, we aren’t going to skip our Christmas music post as it is very early Christmas Eve morning (I’ll be Christmas writing later today I’m sure).
Lindsey Stirling’s Angels We Have Heard On High is absolutely stunning and I hope y’all love it too. Merry Christmas Eve. ❤