Emma Brockes interviews Joan Didion in the Guardian on the back of her compelling memoir The Year of Magical Thinking, an account of how she managed to get through the grief-drenched year after her husband John Gregory Dunne and 39 year-old daughter Quintana both died.
I read The Year of Magical Thinking last week and was very moved by it. There was a lightness to it that I liked a great deal and, despite the heartwrenching subject matter, the book rarely succumbs to sentimentality. Didion's writing is powerful and measured. And there is a real intelligence to it. She seems to recognise in pacing her story out, in placing her memories as a narrative within the covers of a book, that she is already doing violence to what happened to her. She repeats, time and again, the precise times and dates on which the awful events of her year happened, as if forcing onto her story a shape she both knows it never had and yet will gain via its retelling. And knowing how contradictory that is. She says that she "had to write [her] way out of" the pain of that year, but she knows, too, that writing her year down changes the year she had.