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Thursday, August 02, 2007

Phrase and Style in Joan Didion's Writing

One of the most interesting things in reading "Slouching Towards Bethlehem" is really not the majority of the dated subjects and content she is dealing with here. I guess it is true what they day about the sixties... "if you can remember the 60s, you weren't there." I wasn't there... at least not consciously. I was born in 1967; a latest arrival to a couple whose best days were almost behind them (my sisters are all baby-boomers). I suppose I am not quite Generation X but not old enough to be a baby-boomer. At any rate, Didion has made me remember the sixties in a way that offers a magnificent style and phraseology (pick up "The Year of Magical Thinking" and see what I mean). She discovers a country not "in open revolution" or "under enemy siege," but rather a U.S. doting one of the strongest economic rides in recent history. The latter part of the collection are essays dealing with personal views about writing and living in California. I love the essay "Why I Keep a Notebook." She details her account of how she came to realize she was a writer and could do nothing else with her life. She states: "Although I have felt compelled to write things down since I was five years old, I doubt that my daughter ever will, for she is a singularly blessed and accepting child, delighted with life exactly as life presents itself to her, unafraid to go to sleep and unafraid to wake up. Keepers of private notebooks are a different breed altogether, lonely and resistant rearrengers of things, anxious malcontents, children afflicted apparently at birth with some presentiment of loss." I believe that is the same reason I write in my notebooks, on and off, for whatever reason that doesn't fit my interpretation of how I want things to evolve. Failed relationships? Sure, quite a few... and being able to re-write them in some way helps not only the healing process, but also the dark and endless days of grief. Perhaps it all turns into a short story and one gives it the ending one really had in mind from the very beginning. In that way I do claim myself as a malcontent, anxious, as Didion says, and worst off than most. The Moleskines are public and they speak for themselves.

Eugene and Ilse left Monday at noon. Since then I have kept a strict schedule of running, working for the new semester and sleeping. I have been reading for an hour or so, hence the lack of posting. I was up until very late last night converting documents into pdf files for my students. I just finished posting it on my courses website. It's sort of funny that for more work I do, it seems that there is three or four times more work to be done before the semester begins. What to read next? I am looking at my list for this year and thinking I might just change a few titles around. Malcontent as I am :-) I am already planning my reading list for 2008 to include only "classics" I have not read and a few I would like to re-read. For example, I went to Barnes & Noble the other day and bought 4 classics for $10, among them "Great Expectations" and "Madame Bovary." I'll be reading only classics of the Western canon next year.

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At 2:57 PM, Blogger Imani said...

I like this post. I have a Didion book, White Album I think, bought on the recommendation of the local indie book store manager. I haven't read it yet because I'm not a huge non-fiction reader in my spare time, even less so of anything that resembles journalism, but your post makes her writing sound intriguing in a way othe reviews never did. (But then they were reviewing her memoir and I typically flee from those.)

I'm not even in school right now but I'm still unofficially helping a prof with some things. I think it's just his way to kick me into grad school.


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