Wednesday, August 29, 2007

The Year of Magical Thinking

You either love this book or you hate it. Even though bad books week has passed, Anstrat's comments in her earlier Joan Didion pick made me want to take a swing at this one. The Year of Magical Thinking is a memoir of what has to be the most horrible year on record for Joan Didion or for anyone. First, her only daughter Qunitana becomes ill and is hospitalized. Then her husband dies of a massive coronary. Then Quintana has a series of recoveries and relapses and ultimate dies as well (in her thirties) although the memoir was completed before that occurred. Joan Didion is a perfectly capable writer and does express some germane thoughts on grief. She is also an obsessive name dropper and cannot stop describing the luxuries they enjoyed in the utmost detail. (We dined at Morton's almost every night, the Beverly Hills Hilton felt like home-- I knew the manicurists). I found it incredibly off-putting and unnecessary - you can say you went to the same restaurant every night with out name dropping a famous and exclusive restaurant. You can mention your husband's navy windbreaker without mentioning it was the staff jacket for the movie Up Close and Personal, which, oh, by the way you and your husband just happened to write. These details do not help me understand your grief-- they distance me from you and make us both seem shallow, you for writing them and me for being bothered by them. I read her White Album in college and had the same reaction to her meeting with Jim Morrison and her pretentious title. Not recommended.

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