Many years ago Joan Didion was featured on C-Span's BookTV. I don't have many writers which register as rock stars, but for me, Didion is definitely one of them. The show had a call-in period. I didn't expect to get through, but low and behold after a few busy signals, did in fact get through to ask a question to one of my literary idols. I wish I could say I asked her a phenomenal, insightful question and that her face showed she was impressed with my knowledge of her work. But I was so nervous and excited to have gotten through that all I could come up with was, "How do you keep track of your ideas?" Can you get more blah? Needless to say, she was courteous and answered a question that I'm sure she's been asked countless times. For the record, she keeps 3x5 note cards and writes her thinking on them. It was still a nugget of insight for me.
I was introduced to Didion's work as a college sophomore in an American Culture course. We read Slouching Towards Bethlehem. After this, I was hooked on Didion. I quickly went looking for her other work and followed up Bethlehem with The White Album. Both works show Didion's facility as a classic essayist, but it is The Year of Magical Thinking which, to my mind, establishes Didion as a perceptive and powerful observer of human frailty and a woman imbued with the strength to take undramatic, personal human suffering and share it with the world so that it might also draw inspiration from knowing that no one is ever immune from life's hardest tests. Even so, Didion wants no sympathy. She moves forward, she moves beyond pain. Magical Thinking is nothing if not a great reference point that any of us, in fact, most of us, are strong enough to suffer unthinkable personal tragedy without losing sight of the grandeur which is found in simple living.
Joan Didion, one of America's foremost journalists and writers, tackles a universal experience in The Year of Magical Thinking, that of dying, death, loss and grief. Ever the practitioner of the literary succinct and eloquent-trademarks of Didion's writing style-she explores these themes and global experiences via her own personal tragedies, i.e. the sudden 2003 death of her husband-of nearly forty years of marriage-in their apartment and their daughter, Quintana's severe ill-health. … more
Click here to read the book quotes. Originally, I read this book as a way to cope with a lot of family deaths that occurred during a difficult time in my life. It was recommended by a user of the Yahoo Cafe Libri Group, but it didn't live up to my expectations. Perhaps the disconnection lay in the fact that Didion suffered from the loss of a spouse whereas my grief was more distant: my cousin, grandmother, uncle, and great uncle all died in relative … more
This whole book describes events and stories throughout the lives of Joan Didion and her family, and it serves as a way for her to express her grief and try to come to terms with the death of her husband of 40 years, all during a year of what she calls "magical thinking." It's not an entertaining read. It offers some insight on marriage and family, but overall I felt like I was reading something far too personal, a diary of sorts, something that anyone else might write but … more
The Year of Magical Thinking (2005), by Joan Didion (b. 1934), is an account of the year following the death of the author's husband John Gregory Dunne (1932–2003). Published by Knopf in October 2005, the book was immediately acclaimed as a classic in the genre of mourning literature. It won the National Book Award in November 2005 and was a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award as well as the Pulitzer Prize for Biography/Autobiography