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From one of America’s greatest and most iconic writers: an honest and courageous portrait of age and motherhood.
Several days before Christmas 2003, Joan Didion’s only daughter, Quintana, fell seriously ill. In 2010, Didion marked the sixth anniversary of her daughter’s death. ‘Blue Nights’ is a shatteringly honest examination of Joan Didion’s life as a mother, a woman and a writer.
Recently widowed, and becoming increasingly frail, ‘Blue Nights’ is Didion’s attempt to understand our deepest fears, our inadequate adjustments to ageing and to put a name to what we refuse to see and as a consequence fail to face up to, ‘this refusal even to engage in such contemplation, this failure to confront the certainties of ageing, illness and death. This fear.’ This fear is tied to what we cherish most and fight to conserve, protect, and refuse to let go, for, ‘when we are talking about mortality we are talking about our children.’ To face death is to let go of memory, to be bereft once more, ‘I know what it is I am now experiencing. I know what the frailty is, I know what the fear is.’
The fear is not for what is lost.
The fear is for what is still to be lost.
You may see nothing still to be lost.
Yet there is no day in her life on which I do not see her.
A profound, poetic and powerful book about motherhood and the fierce way in which we continue to exalt and nurture our children, even if they only live on in memory.
‘Blue Nights’ is an intensely personal, and yet, strangely universal account of how we love. It is both groundbreaking and a culmination of a stunning career.
About the author
Joan Didion is one of America’s most respected writers, her work constituting some of the greatest portraits of modern-day American culture. Over the four decades of her career, she has produced widely-acclaimed journalistic essays, personal essays, novels, non-fiction, memoir and screenplays. Her memoir The Year of Magical Thinking won the National Book Award in 2005.
Loss has pursued author Didion relentlessly, and in this subtly crushing memoir about the untimely death of her daughter, Quintana Roo (1966 2005), coming on the heels of The Year of Magical Thinking, which chronicled the sudden death of her husband, John Gregory Dunne, Didion again turns face forward to the harsh truth. "When we talk about mortality we are talking about our children," she writes, groping her way backward through painful memories of Quintana Roo's life, from her recent marriage in 2003 to adorable moments of childhood moving about California in the 1970s with her worldly parents and learning early on cues about how to grow up fast. While her parents were writing books, working on location for movies, and staying in fancy hotels, Quintana Roo developed "depths and shallows," as her mother depicts in her elliptically dark fashion, later diagnosed as "borderline personality disorder"; while Didion does not specify what exactly caused Quintana's repeated hospitalizations and coma at the end of her life, the author seems to suggest it was a kind of death wish, about which Didion feels guilt, not having heeded the signs early enough. Her own health she writes at age 75 is increasingly frail, and she is obsessed with falling down and being an invalid. Yet 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.