Friday, November 4, 2011

Like Every Great Writer Joan Didion Suffers And Shares

Only a writer can tear open their chest, lay their bleeding heart on the table, receive abundant applause for their endeavor, then do it all over again just a short time later.

This is the life, death and rebirth every great writer experiences. It is within this cycle that the writer hones their craft, at once sharing a story of themselves with the reader and purging their soul of grief.

Grief. Grief is the currency of the great writer. They pay for every word with their suffering, sharing with the reader a story that burns with every drop of ink. The grief shared with the reader is what makes the story real. Their story comes alive with every inch of their own death.

Writer and world-renowned journalist, Joan Didion has certainly seen more than her fair share of tragedy: The death of her husband; the death of her daughter.

In her book, The Year of Magical Thinking, Didion told the story of her love affair with and marriage to her husband and long time writing partner, John. With her latest book, Blue Nights, Didion turns the writer's light on her relationship with her daughter, and reveals a stunning, yet tragic, view of her own life and art....


Didion and John never made a formal pact about where the boundary lay in invading their daughter's privacy; both had written about her but before now there had been obvious limits - Quintana's adoption and eventual reunion with her birth family; her struggles with depression; Didion's doubts about her mothering.

This was not the material she intended to visit in the book.

''When I started writing, I thought it was going to be about attitudes to raising children. Then it became clear to me that, willy-nilly, it was going to be personal. I can't imagine what I thought it was going to be if it wasn't personal.''

Once this became clear, the urge to really consider her relationship with her daughter was instinctive and irresistible. ''I've always had this sense that the unexamined fact is like a rattlesnake. It's going to come after you. And you can keep it at bay by always keeping it in your eye line.'' Didion hates confrontation but knows how to get what she wants by other means. She doesn't like joining the group. In Hollywood, while she and John were living a fine life among friends in the film industry, she was nonetheless on the outside. ''We were not part of Hollywood. We worked in it but as writers you aren't ever - you don't have a very elevated role.''

Click here to read more Didion's new book and her process of writing it.


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