Blue Nights is Joan Didion’s first book I read, and I guess it will definitely not be her last book. Joan Didion has a spell-like writing style, and the subject she describes in the Blue Nights is not something to be avoided anyway. Whether you want to be involved in the book or not, you can not escape it; you find yourself thinking a lot. The best part of this book is that it will affect everybody differently and make them make different decisions.
In certain latitudes there comes a span of time approaching and rolling the summer solstice, some weeks in all, when the twilights turn long and blue.Joan Didion, Blue Nights
Even though Blue Nights is a love letter written by Joan Didion to her daughter, it contains much more than that. It confronts people with their fears whatever age it is read and actually makes them act a little more thoughtful. And I find this extremely powerful. I can even say that this is a book that can change people because it is about death; it is about losing the ones you love the most. But it manages not to be just that. The book grows in you, somehow. The poetic narrative of Joan Didion may be a reading subject in itself.
You have your wonderful memories,” people said later, as if memories were solace. Memories are not. Memories are by definition of times past, things gone. Memories are the Westlake uniforms in the closet, the faded and cracked photographs, the invitations to the weddings of the people who are no longer married, the mass cards from the funerals of the people whose faces you no longer remember. Memories are what you no longer want to remember.Joan Didion, Blue Nights
Joan Didion is one of the most influential writers and women of our time. Blue Nights, on the other hand, is seen as the most author’s honest work. It is extraordinary. Enjoy!
From one of our most powerful writers, Blue Nights is a work of stunning frankness about losing a daughter. Richly textured with bits of her own childhood and married life with her husband, John Gregory Dunne, and daughter, Quintana Roo, this new book by Joan Didion examines her thoughts, fears, and doubts regarding having children, illness, and growing old.
Blue Nights opens on July 26, 2010, as Didion thinks back to Quintana’s wedding in New York seven years before. “Today would be her wedding anniversary.”
This fact triggers vivid snapshots of Quintana’s childhood in Malibu, in Brentwood, at school in Holmby Hills. Reflecting on her daughter but also on her role as a parent, Didion asks the candid questions any parent might about how she feels she failed either because cues were not taken or perhaps displaced. ‘How could I have missed what was clearly there to be seen?’
Finally, perhaps we all remain unknown to each other. Seamlessly woven in are incidents Didion sees as underscoring her own age, something she finds hard to acknowledge, much less accept.
Blue Nights – the long, light evening hours that signal the summer solstice, the opposite of the dying of the brightness, but also its warning, like The Year of Magical Thinking before it, is an iconic book of incisive and electric honesty, haunting and profoundly moving.
Vanish.Joan Didion, Blue Nights
Pass into nothingness: the Keats line that frightened her.
Fade as the blue nights fade, go as the brightness goes.
Go back into the blue.
I myself placed her ashes in the wall.
I myself saw the cathedral doors locked at six.
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.
What is lost is already in the wall.
What is lost is already behind the locked doors.
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.
Joan Didion was born in Sacramento, CA in 1934, the daughter of an officer in the Army Air Corps. A shy, bookish child, Didion spent her teenage years typing out Ernest Hemingway stories to learn how sentences work. She attended the University of California, Berkeley where she got a degree in English and won an essay contest sponsored by Vogue magazine.
The prize was a research assistant job at the magazine where Didion would work for more than a decade, eventually working her way up to an associate features editor. During this time she wrote for various other magazines and published her first novel, a tragic story about murder and betrayal, called RUN RIVER in 1963. The following year she married fellow writer John Gregory Dunne and the two moved to Los Angeles. The couple adopted a daughter whom they named Quintana Roo after the state in southern Mexico.
Didion’s first volume of essays, entitled SLOUCHING TOWARDS BETHLEHEM, was published in 1968 and was a collection of her feelings about the counterculture of the 1960s. The New York Times referred to it as “a rich display of some of the best prose written today in this country.” Her critically acclaimed second novel PLAY IT AS IT LAYS (1970) was about a fading starlet whose dissatisfaction with Hollywood leads her further and further away from reality.
Herself engaging in the Hollywood lifestyle, Didion would go on to co-write four screenplays with her husband: PANIC IN NEEDLE PARK (1971), PLAY IT AS IT LAYS (1972, based on her novel), A STAR IS BORN, (1981) and UP CLOSE AND PERSONAL (1996). A second book of essays, THE WHITE ALBUM, was published in 1979 about life in the late 1960s and the 1970s.
Throughout the years Didion has written many more essay collections on subjects that have swayed her. Her fascination with America’s relations with its southern neighbors could be seen in SALVADOR (1983) and MIAMI (1987). POLITICAL FICTIONS (2001) focuses on her thoughts on American politics and government. Didion and her family moved back to New York in the 1980s, and her observations of the city can be read in AFTER HENRY (1992). She reflects on California’s past and present in her 2003 collection WHERE I WAS FROM.
Joan Didion’s husband died in 2003. Didion wrote about the grief she felt at Dunne’s death in THE YEAR OF MAGICAL THINKING (2005). The book has been called “a masterpiece of two genres: memoir and investigative journalism,” and won the National Book Award in 2005. Sadly, also in 2005, Didion lost Quintana Roo to acute pancreatitis. Didion wrote a memoir about the loss of her daughter called BLUE NIGHTS, which was published in 2011.
Didion’s work, which has been associated with the “New Journalism” movement, has been recognized on many occasions. She received the American Academy of Arts & Letters Gold Medal in Criticism and Belles Letters in 2005 and won the National Book Foundation’s Medal for Distinguished Contribution to American Letters in 2007. She is a member of the Academy of Arts & Letters, the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and The Berkeley Fellows. She received an honorary Doctor of Letters from Harvard University in 2009 and an honorary degree from Yale in 2011. In 2013, she was awarded a National Medal of Arts and Humanities by President Obama, and the PEN Center USA’s Lifetime Achievement Award.
Reading this book contributed to these challenges: