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Blue Nights Paperback – May 29, 2012

3.9 out of 5 stars 240 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Review

“Incantatory.... A beautiful condolence note to humanity about some of the painful realities of the human condition.” —The Washington Post
 
“Heartbreaking.... A searing inquiry into loss and a melancholy mediation on mortality and time.” —Michiko Kakutani, The New York Times
 
“Joan Didion is a brilliant observer, a powerful thinker, a writer whose work has been central to the times in which she has lived. Blue Nights continues her legacy.” —The Boston Globe

“Exemplary...provocative.... [Didion] comes fully to realize, and to face squarely, the dismaying fact that against life’s worst onslaughts nothing avails, not even art; especially not art.” —John Banville, The New York Times Book Review
 
“A beautiful, soaring, polyphonic eulogy.... What appears on the surface to be an elegantly, intelligently, deeply felt, precisely written story of the loss of a beloved child is actually an elegantly, intelligently, deeply felt, precisely written glimpse into the abyss, a book that forces us to understand, to admit, that there can be no preparation for tragedy, no protection from it, and so, finally, no consolation.” —The New York Review of Books
 
“Profoundly moving.... This is first and last a meditation on mortality.” —San Francisco Chronicle
 
“Ms. Didion has translated the sad hum of her thoughts into a profound meditation on mortality. The result aches with a wisdom that feels dreadfully earned.” —The Economist
 
“For the great many of us who cherish Joan Didion, who can never get enough of her voice and her brilliant, fragile, endearing, pitiless persona, [Blue Nights] is a gift.” —Newsday
 
“Exquisite.... She applies the same rigorous standards of research and meticulous observation to her own life that she expects from herself in journalism. And to get down to the art of what she does, her sense of form is as sharp as a glass-cutter’s, and her sentences fold back on themselves and come out singing in a way that other writers can only wonder at and envy.” —The Washington Independent Review of Books
 
“Ms. Didion has created something luminous amid her self-recrimination and sorrow. It’s her final gift to her daughter—one that only she could give.” —Wall Street Journal
 
“Didion’s bravest work. It is a bittersweet look back at what she’s lost, and an unflinching assessment of what she has left.” —BookPage
 
“Yes, this is a book about aging and about loss. Mostly, though, it is about what one parent and child shared—and what all parents and children share, the intimacy of what bring you closer and what splits you apart.” —Oprah.com
 
“Haunting.” —Entertainment Weekly
 
“Breathtaking.... With harrowing honesty and mesmerizing style, Didion chronicles the tragic death of her daughter, Quintana, interwoven with memories of their happier days together and Didion’s own meditations on aging.” —Newsweek
 
“Darkly riveting.... The cumulative effect of watching her finger her recollections like beads on a rosary is unexpectedly instructive. None of us can escape death, but Blue Nights shows how Didion has, with the devastating force of her penetrating mind, learned to simply abide.” —Elle
 
“In this supremely tender work of memory, Didion is paradoxically insistent that as long as one person is condemned to remember, there can still be pain and loss and anguish.” —Christopher Hitchens, Vanity Fair

“Didion’s latest memoir unflinchingly reflects on old age and the tragedy of her daughter’s death.”
—Best New Paperbacks, Entertainment Weekly

About the Author

Joan Didion was born in Sacramento, California, and now lives in New York City. She is the author of five novels and eight previous books of nonfiction. Her collected nonfiction, We Tell Ourselves Stories in Order to Live, was published by Everyman's Library in 2006.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 208 pages
  • Publisher: Vintage; Reprint edition (May 29, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0307387380
  • ISBN-13: 978-0307387387
  • Product Dimensions: 5.2 x 0.6 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (240 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #50,819 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Federico (Fred) Moramarco VINE VOICE on November 2, 2011
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I've been reading Joan Didion's work for nearly half a century--I got hooked by her early collection, Slouching Toward Bethlehem (1968) and have read every thing she's written since. For years I began my Contemporary American Literature class at San Diego State University with the famous first sentence from her collection, The White Album: "We tell ourselves stories in order to live." I used that as a keynote to the course because I wanted students to understand that stories are not merely entertainment (although they can be that) but life essentials. Without them life as we know it would be impossible. Ask anyone a basic question: "Where are you from?" "What school did you go to? What do you do for a living? And so on, and he or she will tell you a story. We use stories to link together the disconnected moments of our lives, or as Didion so cogently puts it in "The White Album," "We live entirely, especially if we are writers, by the imposition of a narrative line upon disparate images, by the `ideas' with which se have learned to freeze the shifting phantasmagoria which is our actual experience." "Shifting phantasmagoria"--that's how we perceive our lives-- just one thing after another. And sometimes those kaleidoscopic images can shift from bright dazzling colors to dark opaque hues with just a single twist of the lens.

This is of course what happened to Didion. As everyone knows, in the last several years she has suffered mightily. Her stunning, heartbreaking book, The Year of Magical Thinking, which told the story of her husband John Gregory Dunne's sudden, unexpected death, haunts the memory and takes us inside a deep, unsettling grief that turned her life upside down.
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Format: Hardcover
I sat down to write a review of Joan Didion's new book, Blue Nights, when I noticed that the fragrant breeze wafting in through my window reminded me of those warm humid evenings in Paris when Jack Nicholson, who is a dear friend, and Andy Warhol and his lovely daughter, and I would sit on sumptuous pillows on Jack's balcony, sipping absinthe, reading poetry aloud, and inhaling the hibiscus scented winds arising from the gardens surrounding Jack's bungalow. The moonlight glinting off Andy's Rolex, which was given to him by the Sultan of Brunei, could almost bring me to tears with its elemental beauty. But I digress...Blue Nights is a magical book. Almost as magical as that afternoon I spent off the coast of Perth on Bill Cosby's yacht, dining on fresh octopus steaks and plump loganberries flown in by Walter Cronkite as a wedding gift for Robert DeNiro's twin sons. Bill's Givenchy bathing suit and Cartier slippers were like dueling forlorn gods, bellowing in muted anger at the forgotten dreams of youth. Blue Nights is a book about the death of Didion's daughter, and death is as sad as the time Pablo and Paloma Picasso
lost Pablo's Harry Winston diamond denture cup in the warm, sparkling waters of the Perfume River in Saigon, where I had gone to shoot a movie with Francis Ford Coppola and Jackie Onassis. Jackie's Ralph Lauren blouse, made of artisanal cotton from the plantations at the Four Seasons Hotel in Madrid, was so comforting and real that I immediately phoned my good friend Meryl Streep and told her to order a dozen each for herself, me, and the niece of the King of Spain, who has always been someone I could count on. The niece...her nickname is "Pinata-ita", or "little pinata"...
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
It can't be easy to be Joan Didion and it certainly wasn't easy to be her adopted daughter. As most readers know, Ms. Didion had to endure the cruelest kind of one-two punch: the death of her husband John Gregory Dunne followed by the death of Quintana Roo at age 39.

And now, years after writing The Year of Magical Thinking, she revisits this dark year in Blue Nights: "This book is called "Blue Nights" because at the time I began it I found my mind turning increasingly to illness, to the end of promise, the dwindling of the days, the inevitability of fading, the dying of the brightness. Blue nights are the opposite of the dying of the brightness, but they are also its warning."

I quoted this prologue at length because the book is less about Quintana than it is about her mother, the author. Ms. Didion eventually states, "The actual subject was not children after all...the actual subject...was this failure to confront the certainties of aging, illness, death." Or, in other words, "it's now about me."

The author eschews the word "privilege" ("Privilege remains an area to which - when I think of what she endured, when I consider what came later - I will not easily cop.") But it is hard for the reader to NOT think of Quintana Roo as privileged, at least from a material sense. Joan Didion asked for - and received - a beautiful baby girl from St. John's Hospital in Santa Monica (the girl HAD to be "beautiful"), purchased miniature wooden hangers and expensive dresses. Quintana, at the age of five, had stayed at the St. Regis and the Regency, The Dorchester in London, and so on.

We learn that Quintana was not a happy child or adult who was terrified of an imaginary "Broken Man" and lived with a fear of abandonment.
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