October 30, 2011


Ms. Cheever gets closer to the heart of Didion's latest than much else of what I have read. I can't say I really even liked Blue Nights; naturally, it's hard to be a mom and read about someone losing a child. It's not the book you want to read when you are pregnant--a meditation on how utterly finite life feels at the end, about losing your child only to realize that maybe you never really heard or understood them for who they are. The topic is wholly unpleasant, I felt resistant to it, and as Didion says several time in the book, you just don't want to consider it so you don't, but it is always there whether you do or not. The ghost possibility. Topic aside, the book itself is sharp and restless, the usual Didion device of repeating some cool fact (or rather, fact coolly is how I mean) as if it's consideration makes it truer, stranger, to ruminate on how little sense it makes. The distracting facts that take her away from the actual are as much a topic as anything (and the pain of outliving your family, and later, the trouble of living)--but the facts don't bring us any deeper into her consideration. I mean, on one hand, as a reader, I think sympathetically, well, what right do I have to ask that, that's like asking her as an author to pervert her pain for the sake of a more satisfying read, or that her pain is somehow not exquisite enough... Something about the book feels transient and poemic, I wanted more arc, I suppose. But I feel like a dick for wanting that as a reader, to be satisfied in the depth of her grief, which is fairly perverted in itself. I don;t know what is goading that, my fandom of Didion, or being groomed by a dish-all celebrity culture where pain is pimped out and peacocked in books and blogs and tell-all tweets and trashterpieces. I feel unsettled by the book and by how I regard it--I don't know which weighs more, and am not sure I am willing to go back and re-read it to figure it out.

Posted by jessica hopper at October 30, 2011 11:10 AM | TrackBack