Tuesday, April 03, 2007


It is not very cool these days to criticize Joan Didion. And I'm not, even though it has been done. No, instead I worship Didion for her work, both fiction and nonfiction. Her prose is the kind that I could only dream of writing, or for that matter truly comprehending.

Some of Didion’s sentences extend for days on end, never faltering to draw inspiration,masterfully weaving around her own thoughts a web of narrow access veering immutably toward the particular.

Nobody can do it like Didion.

And so of course I loved The Year of Magical Thinking, even though I cannot relate to her reflections on widowhood, or her upper Manhattan lifestyle that differs so vastly from my own. To take the universal topic of death and compose it to suit your own life already alienates an audience to a certain degree, which is a schism that only Didion can execute with skill. It is a book of style, like all of her work, and that much I appreciate.

Her glamour is the last of its kind; there are no other celebrities today who are both intellectual and beautiful.

Conversely, it was at one point cool to criticize Vanessa Redgrave who, for 90 minutes, sat on stage at the Booth Theatre and screwed up Joan Didion’s words. Sure, that might be a bit of an exaggeration, but from where I was sitting (fourth row, thank you very much), Redgrave looked too technical, and I do not appreciate the manic slant she gave to Didion’s character.

Or maybe it is not Redgrave’s fault. Maybe, instead, Didion’s work is too private to be set to stage, out in the open like that. Simply put, the book was not meant to be a play.


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