Top positive review
3 people found this helpful
A reminder of who we all are and where most of us are going. A must
on December 20, 2017
Blue Nights belongs to the category of what I call "Prime Lit". In my set of literary values, books belonging to "Prime Lit" list are not just time killers or compedia of useful info. Hence, even three stars in "Prime Lit" beats five stars in thrillers, romance, How To books, etc. Prime Lit should be judged on the basis of their literary form and more than contemporarily fashionable content, and not on whether they allowed me a pleasant afternoon. Joan Didion's book wins on both counts. In essence, Blue Nights tries to offer Didion's life-time setting of personal accounts. The book attempts to cope with the terrible loss of her husband and her adopted daughter, Quintana Roo, as seen through her own perspective of aging, frailty, fear of debilitating disease and death, and above all - loneliness. Didion painstaikingly (and painfully) tries to re-create the past, to resuscitate Quintana's ghost by attempting to create a mosaic of fading mementos and memories. Understendably, she mostly fails, and what should have been a therapeutic healing process becomes a somber dirge. Several years ago I read "The Years of Magical Thinking", an account of her husband's death and her daughter's illness. I loved that book. It was frightening exactly because it touched every raw nerve in my own life. Blue Nights however was different. Initially, I disliked it. Its repetitious format, its lists of truisms and eternally valid and therefore almost pedestrian complaints seemd like whining and turned me off. I also resented Didion's resentment of being regarded as belonging to the privigeledged class. It is obvious - she was priviledged. Yet the book inadvertently emphasizes how all the fame, relative affluence, entitlement, failed to protect Didion, her husband, and Quitana Rool from physical and mental illness and suffering. Slowly the form to which I objected, the elegiac repetitions, the pain and fear, got to me. Above all, Didion is masterful writer. She manipulates terse slivers of text, in their repetitions and in their laconic lack of pathos, to create the emotional impact of the book. This is not an easy book to read, but in its unique way it is a book about being human, a reminder of who we all are and whtre most of us are going when they age. A must.