The Year of Magical Thinking by Joan DidionAn act of consummate literary bravery, a writer known for her clarity allowing us to watch her mind as it becomes clouded with grief.
From one of Americas iconic writers, a stunning book of electric honesty and passion. Joan Didion explores an intensely personal yet universal experience: a portrait of a marriage–and a life, in good times and bad–that will speak to anyone who has ever loved a husband or wife or child.
Several days before Christmas 2003, John Gregory Dunne and Joan Didion saw their only daughter, Quintana, fall ill with what seemed at first flu, then pneumonia, then complete septic shock. She was put into an induced coma and placed on life support. Days later–the night before New Years Eve–the Dunnes were just sitting down to dinner after visiting the hospital when John Gregory Dunne suffered a massive and fatal coronary. In a second, this close, symbiotic partnership of forty years was over. Four weeks later, their daughter pulled through. Two months after that, arriving at LAX, she collapsed and underwent six hours of brain surgery at UCLA Medical Center to relieve a massive hematoma.
This powerful book is Didions attempt to make sense of the weeks and then months that cut loose any fixed idea I ever had about death, about illness . . . about marriage and children and memory . . . about the shallowness of sanity, about life itself.
An Introduction to Joan Didion
The 100 best nonfiction books: No 2 – The Year of Magical Thinking by Joan Didion (2005)
The geological imagery conveys the disparity of scale between any mortal intelligence and those immense, lethal gulfs and mountains. It is a terrain often lied about, and routinely blurred by euphemism. Didion's book is thrilling and engaging -- sometimes quite funny -- because it ventures to tell the truth: a traveler's faithful account of those harsh but fascinating cliffs. Hopkins's verbal music, his gorgeously stammered consonant-harmonies and syncopated cadences, expresses one of Didion's true reports: grief makes us crazy. In December , the only daughter of Didion and her husband, the writer John Gregory Dunne, fell into septic shock from a runaway pneumonia infection. Her doctors at New York's Beth Israel North put the young woman -- she was married only five months earlier -- into an induced coma.
How one makes sense of bereavement is a question that reflects an undeniable, universal conundrum of the human condition. And it is one most of us will only confront when forced to by harsh circumstance. Famed author Joan Didion could not evade it in , when she lost her husband and sometime literary collaborator John Gregory Dunne and witnessed the sudden, catastrophic illness of their only child, adult daughter Quintana Roo Dunne. But emerging from that experience, Didion the writer was not silent. Life changes in the instant. You sit down to dinner and life as you know it ends. The question of self-pity.
Consider the four sentences in italics that begin chapter one. What did you think when you read them for the first time? What do you think now?
passport to the impossible book
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And yet we continue to grapple with the paradox of our mortality. But arguably our most formidable and intense confrontation with nonexistence comes when we lose loved ones. In The Year of Magical Thinking public library , her harrowing record of the year following the death of her husband of four decades, John Gregory Dunne, Joan Didion , born on December 5, , offers a soul-stirring meditation on grief in all its unimaginable dimensions:. Grief, when it comes, is nothing like we expect it to be. Grief comes in waves, paroxysms, sudden apprehensions that weaken the knees and blind the eyes and obliterate the dailiness of life. Grief turns out to be a place none of us know until we reach it. We anticipate we know that someone close to us could die, but we do not look beyond the few days or weeks that immediately follow such an imagined death.