Read ✓ Blue Nights By Joan Didion –

Read ✓ Blue Nights By Joan Didion – ➼ [Reading] ➾ Blue Nights By Joan Didion ➱ – From one of our most powerful writers a work of stunning frankness about losing a daughter Richly textured with bits of her own childhood and married life with her husband John Gregory Dunne and daugh From one of our most powerful writers a work of stunning frankness about losing a daughter Richly textured with bits of her own childhood and married life with her husband John Gregory Dunne and daughter uintana Roo this new book by Joan Didion examines her thoughts fears and doubts regarding having children illness and growing old   Blue Nights opens on July as Didion thinks back to uintana’s wedding in New York seven years before Today would be her wedding anniversary This fact triggers vivid snapshots of uintana’s childhood—in Malibu in Brentwood at school in Holmby Hills Reflecting on her daughter but also on her role as a parent Didion asks the candid uestions any parent might about how she feels she failed either because cues were not taken or perhaps displaced “How could I have missed what was clearly there to be seen” Finally perhaps we all remain unknown to each other Seamlessly woven in are incidents Didion sees as underscoring her own age something she finds hard to acknowledge much less accept   Blue Nights—the long light evening hours that signal the summer solstice “the opposite of the dying of the brightness but also its warning”—like The Year of Magical Thinking before it is an iconic book of incisive and electric honesty haunting and profoundly moving.

10 thoughts on “Blue Nights

  1. Claire M. Claire M. says:

    I should preface this review by saying that I adore Joan Didion's writing There really is no one better at cataloguing the social chaos and energy that defines a specific shot of history than her I grew up in the California of the 1960s and 1970s and if anyone asks me about those years I point to her Like most of her readers I read with such sadness about the death of her husband and daughter and finished her book The Year of Magical Thinking with such profound respect; she defined unfathomable grief with words Blue Nights—her ode to her daughter uintana—is also a well written book but when I finished it I slapped it down on my dining room table with a rare sense of irritation With most books there is you the reader who is hopefully at the mercy of the author The author pulls you into their world Generally you don't pull them into theirs When that happens a book sort of fails I didn't get pulled into Joan Didion's world As a parent I couldn't help but pull her into mine and the parent in me was snorting in disbelief and sometimes outrage There is an underlying uestion throughout the whole book was she a good enough parent? I can't really answer that uestion It's a uestion that all parents ask themselves freuently although usually not hand in hand with mourning a child's death and yes this is the worst thing that can happen to a parent bar none But it's hard not to stare in disbelief when she comments that her daughter was terrified that her father would go first because then uintana would be under the care and responsibility of her mother Why wouldn't she be terrified? This is the same woman who felt it was perfectly acceptable to bring her infant to a reporting assignment covering the fall of Saigon Who thought it appropriate in response to this assignment to go out and buy a bunch of designer clothes And while this disconnect with reality is a trademark of hers it might work for her persona as a writer it fails when we consider her as a parent As a writer we might find it privately amusing that she would fly from Honolulu and arrive in Hartford when it was below zero without a sweater When it’s her kid shivering then it’s impossible to not judge her The reader takes a back seat to the parent Didion's detachment has always been her strength But it's an odd detachment which is why I think it works so well in her writing Because it's the detachment of the walking wounded Someone so battered by reality that detachment is the only way to survive It's the detachment of someone trying to make sense out of the nonsensical As a parent and please don't assume that I think I'm a fantastic parent merely adeuate I'm listening to her uestioning her efficacy as a parent and I feel like shouting honey it's not about you That's what parenting is It's not about you Which seems manifestly unfair because her writing has always been about her and not about her But you can't carry that sensibility into parenting I read over these verbal snapshots of her life and marriage and all I can think of was that uintana never got to be a child She’s described as being precocious in this book but to me it feels like of a coping mechanism They may have loved her unuestionably but the Dunnes went on location stayed in swanky hotels wrote their articles movie scripts and books and dragged her along for the ride She had to become an adult in a child’s bodySo much for the personal issues I had with this book We come to the writing The last third of the book is devoted to Didion’s sense that she is losing her ability to write It's part and parcel of other physical frailties but although the physical maladies are terrifying they pale in contrast to the idea that she's losing her truly wonderful way of parsing words That her style is becoming trite that an ability to write so clearly about the lack of center is now suffering from not having its own centerAnd while I can't say that her writing falls short the beginning of this book is as masterful a beginning as I've ever read there is a sense of um where's the editor? Her repetition of phrases and concepts that in previous works united a bunch of seemingly disparate events to create a fractured whole now does seem something of a ticAnother stylistic choice that seemed to dominate this book was for want of a better word product placement And by that I mean it is never a pair of shoes a hotel a sweater; it's Laboutins the Dorchester cashmere Truly are we supposed to lament that Bendel's is no longer the same? Even people are nothing than product placement This actress this director gave a speech at uintana's weddingPart of the strength of Didion's work written in the 1960s and the 1970s is that the protagonists of her essays were no different than you or I except that maybe they were part of Manson's family And although that is a hell of a difference in her hands it was also not a hell of a difference A there but for the grace of God sensibility dominated In her current work everyone has a name A big name Almost like these larger than life people had no right to up and die Unlike you and me Because we don't have names It's unsettling at first and then becomes annoying It undercuts the real issue in this book The loss of her daughter Does it really matter that she went to school with and had dinner at this restaurant with this Hollywood icon? It doesn't make her passing any tragic although there is the hint that she was special because of it When in reality she was special because she was so lovedIn the end I certainly would recommend this book because Joan Didion is one of the most thoughtful and fantastic writers of her generation but Blue Nights doesn't have the strength of The Year of Magical Thinking I think this is the most personal of her books for obvious reasons but it's also one of her weaker books perhaps the inevitable fall out of the detached finally becoming attached with little to attach to

  2. Ruth Ruth says:

    I wanted to like this book than I did I am very sorry poor Joan D's husband died and then her only child is dead But she writes this book in a confusing way and I'm not sure what to make of it Even the title phrase which she tries to explain is elusive to me I learned way about her life and her daughter in her prior book The Yr of Magical Thinking That topic was the sad and sudden death of her husband This book is about the sad and not sudden death of her daughter who died less than two years after Mr Dunne died If your child dies how are you supposed to make it into a nice readable tale? But I was not very thrilled with this book I don't know how likeable the narrator is I can't understand if her daughter named uitana was a trunk full of trouble growing up or not There is mention of diagnosis and some mental problems but it is not explained The daughter is adopted and I was expecting a heartfelt uest for parenthood that you commonly hear from adoptive families This was nothing like that it seemed to happen on a lark mentioning they were trying to have a baby Ms Didion was in her early thirties or late twenties I think She was not too old to conceive by general standards but nothing is explained and then someone who knew a Dr so and so who called them and they went and got the baby She does recount the bio family connecting up with her daughter but there is no emotional expression that colors it It is factual and clinical and kind of dull Ms Didion has regrets about the kind of mother she was but she does not really get into it but she seems almost defensive over the privileged life she gave her daughter This is odd because there are no apologies for the extravagant life style And I got annoyed with the life style she and John live it up on expense accounts presumably movie companies and publishers It makes me uncomfortable when perfectly well off people are such sponges Flying to Hawaii to Europe summers in France and so on If now she wasn't all alone and sad I might be jealous There is an annoying tale of strange bitterness involving the house she had in California She wrote about it enough in the Yr of Magical Thinkinghere it is again She and her husband sold the house moved to NYC The buyer flattered their bookish egos and then tore the whole place down and built a new one It wasn't even a wonderful house but JD still is bothered by this apparent unfair treatment It is one topic she is clear about that hurt herI have read some of JD's other books and I like her style but in this case it has its limits She mentions uitana's husbandbut he does not get one adjective Was he tall? Was he loud? Was he kind? It is disconcerting she is unwilling to depict him but instead will recount the patterns of hospital curtains She will mention where the wedding cake came from many times it means nothing tome What designer dress was that? I don't care your upper class trappings don't resonate The content is often utterly uninteresting such as a verse from the Eagles' song Hotel California This thinness to the content seems to be embellished with passages having repeated phrases and their cadences It just did not work for me An only child of intellectuals is bound to be precocious and all kids say fascinating things something Ms D seems oblivious to She repeats the story of 's child hood fear of the broken man it means to the parents than it does to the kid It is not exactly bragging but JD seems to think it is some sort of incredible clue to the rare brain of her kid I am not sure if her writing this book was anything than just making some coin Maybe she got bad advice I do feel sorry for her not because she is alone and old because we will all be old or dead and you are always alone I feel sorry for her because she seemed to lose her footing in life happens to everyone and trying to write about it does not seem to help

  3. Cheryl Cheryl says:

    In certain latitudes there comes a span of time approaching and following the summer solstice some weeks in all when the twilights turn long and blueyou pass a window you walk to Central Park you find yourself swimming in the color blueover the course of an hour or so this blue deepens becomes intense even as it darkens and fades As I type this I wonder if I'd be so lucky as to come across a blue night tonight; the tranuil sight of a sky so clear yet so blue Deep blue And yet Blue Nights mean the opposite of brightness the inevitability of the fading There is something about the way in which Joan Didion writes that forces you to listen to her lugubrious melody for she does write in notes And lines And aesthetics Her meddlesome prose which interposes narrative with uestions uestions with thoughts thoughts with research She makes ordinary contemplations extraordinary I found myself reading this book at night in one sitting cover to cover holding my breath and wondering whether it was too disheartening of a read to try and tackle before going to bedStill I listened Blue Nights is a candid reflection on death motherhood illness and loss of an only daughter Though I wouldn't recommend reading this before reading The Year of Magical Thinking wherein Didion deals with the loss of her husband business partner writing soulmate and You read her books and you understand the life and times of the American writer most people only dream of becoming you see snippets of the behind the scenes life of the woman who penned numerous books and memoirs as well as screenplays with her husband Mostly you see a mother's pain as she remembers the daughter who passed at such a young age By the way if you've read Isabel Allende's memoir Paula you will enjoy the similar themes of love death and remembrance What remained until now was unfamiliar what I recognize in the photographs but failed to see at the time they were taken are the startling depths and shallows of her expressions the uicksilver changes of mood Whenever Didion was working on a book her husband said she stayed up until about three in the morning had a drink and read some poetry before going to bed; TS Eliot Wallace Stevens WH Auden you name it You see the poetry in her writing the repetition the ordinariness bestowed upon the reader in a poetic fashion the wordplay This is why you read Didion You also read knowing that there will be tons of uestions she'll ask of herself she will challenge herself on the page she will involve you the reader she will show why memoir is thought provoking and universal in its approach My cognitive confidence seems to have vanished altogether Even the correct stance for telling you this the ways to describe what is happening to me the attitude the tone the very words now elude my grasp When her daughter uintana was younger Didion always made her lunch the night before This is how her husband described the lunch in his wedding toast to their daughterlittle sandwiches with their crusts cut off cut into four triangular pieceshomemade fried chicken with little salt and pepper shakersstemmed strawberries with sour cream and brown sugar She was particular in life you see her do the same as she reflects on death In each vignette driven chapter she seems to contemplate life through death making sense of all that is good so that one doesn't die while still alive Though this seems odd it is a concept easy to grasp With this memoir she does what her entire family seems to have done at every downturn in life embrace life's experiences through the written word As I sit here contemplating this I only wish I'd seen the one person play she wrote for The Year of Magical ThinkingShe was seventy five years old when she wrote this one of few memoirists who pen the present tense with such poise placing you right in the middle of it all with simplicity and ease that you're viewing a picture of Sophia Loren with her Loren is sitting on a gilt chair wearing a silk turban and smoking a cigarette achingly polished forever soignée and you're thinking what's the point? But this is pure Didion style she will get to the point in an obliue fashion When we lose that sense of possible we lose it fast

  4. Carol Carol says:

    A brief yet heart aching poetic insight of grief relating the death of Didion's adult daughter uintana It's in the blue nights that the uestions the grappling for answers plague us As Didion explains this 'Blue Nights—the long light evening hours that signal the summer solstice the opposite of the dying of the brightness but also its warning

  5. Paul Paul says:

    My first work by Didion this is a follow up to The Year of Magical Thinking where Didion wrote about the loss of her husband This concerns the loss of Didion’s adopted daughter uintana Roo in 2005 at 39 not long after the death of her husband Whilst Didion does cover the adoption of her daughter and some of her earlier life but she also goes on to relate the effects of aging and her reflections on them Didion has worked with words for a living and she is good with them Her ability to produce descriptive writing is obvious illustrated by this example relating to what would have been uintana’s seventh wedding anniversary;“Seven years ago today we took the leis from the florist’s boxes and shook the water in which they were packed onto the grass The white peacock spread his fan The organ sounded She wove white stephanotis into the thick braid that hung down her back She dropped a tulle veil over her head and the stephanotis loosened and fell The plumeria blossom”Yet there is no description of uintana Roo at all and as the book continues the subject becomes the failure to address the certainties of growing old illness and death although the way Didion realises this is a way particular to her“One day we are looking at the Magnum photograph of Sophia Loren at the Christian Dior show in Paris in 1968 and thinking yes it could be me I could wear that dress I was in Paris that year; a blink of the eye later we are in one or another doctor’s office being told what has already gone wrong why we will never again wear the red suede sandals with the four inch heels never again wear the gold hoop earrings the enamelled beads never now wear the dress Sophia Loren is wearing”It is almost as though the subject changes as the book goes on; although Didion does keep coming back to a uote that is repeated throughout the book “When we talk about mortality we are talking about our children”The memoir is haunting and given the series events this is not surprising“Could you have seen had you been walking on Amsterdam Avenue and caught sight of the bridal party that day how utterly unprepared the mother of the bride was to accept what would happen before the year 2003 had even ended? The father of the bride dead at his own dinner table? The bride herself in an induced coma breathing only on a respirator not expected by the doctors in the intensive care to live the night? The first in a cascade of medical crises that would end twenty months later with her death”As one reviewer has pointed out this is a memoir about regret than grief but Didion is always uotable and has some interesting things to say about aging and the way it suddenly seems to be there as if we had not realised it was going to happenIt is a powerful memoir with some interesting reflections on aging but I was never uite sure what it was designed to be

  6. Deborah Lott Deborah Lott says:

    Well it's probably blasphemy to say this and I did give this book the highest possible rating but some of Didion's stylistic methods the lists the uestions the coy mingling of abstract and concrete were showing here They felt like tricks rather than fluid means of transcending the personal and reaching the universal I actually got annoyed with the narrator when she couldn't seem to answer her own interminable uestions when the answers seemed obvious to me Of course if your mother has chronic migraine carries a presumptive diagnosis of MS looks frail writes about chaos and the meaninglessness of the universe and your parents take you with them around the world to movie sets and agents' offices you may well become precocious feel as if it is your job to take care of them and develop your own sense that the universe is meaningless and chaotic Is this really mysterious? You may see the randomness lurking in the choiceadoption fable meant to reassure you that you were fated to be with your adoptive parents How could you not ask what if you weren't home when the doctor called to offer me to you etc when your mother asks these sorts of uestions in her writing all the time? How can Didion not see how much uintana probably wanted to be a writer like Mom and Dad? Didion approaches and then darts away from deeper understanding of her daughter's and her own psychology Some of the montagecollage the movement from contemplating her daughter's psychology to her own physical problems of aging felt narcissistic Can she only think about her daughter empathetically for so long before she has to shift focus to herself? I understand that the larger themes are mortality and the unwillingness to acknowledge the passage of time etc etc but there were still so many moments when I wanted to pin the narrator down to staying in the moment with her daughter before getting back to herself Didion also throws around psychiatric diagnoses applied at various times to uintana as if they explain her but it feels cruel to apply a diagnosis so often used to discredit intense women and so often lacking in scientific validity borderline personality disorder to describe her daughter It doesn't explain at this point it only discredits I haven't yet uite gotten to the end of the book but it's still not clear to me what the connection is between these psychiatric diagnoses and her daughter's final physical illness Maybe Didion is relying on the reader to connect some of these dots but for some reason this book felt coy and evasive than her other works Are we being asked to forgive her? Tell her that whatever happened with her daughter isn't her fault? Or condemn and forgive her at the same time? Is the subject matter still too fraught too painful the relationship too unresolved? Am I projecting here my own feelings about my mother and her blindnesses to me? I feel as if I'm being too hard on Didion What could be horrible than losing your husband and your daughter within a few months of one another in the midst of losing your own physical and cognitive bearings? Didion is brave to even broach these subjects and even when she's not at the top of her game she's better than virtually everyone else writing memoir I relished every word of this book even as I sometimes wanted to shake the narrator

  7. Julie Ehlers Julie Ehlers says:

    The scuttlebutt about Blue Nights is that it's really different from Didion's other work and that is true But it's not different in a bad way Of the Didion books I've read this struck me as the most poetic Certain evocative phrases are imbued with significance and repeated throughout the text; I thought this was beautiful and effective and gave the book an almost obsessive uality that was completely appropriate I'd been under the impression that Blue Nights was about Didion's daughter in the way The Year of Magical Thinking was about Didion's husband and certainly uintana plays a large role in this memoir But it's also a broader meditation on mortality and for me it worked on every level I couldn't put it down read it in a day and was totally devastated It's sad to think this may be the last book of new material we will ever see from Didion but if that's the case she has done herself proud and we should all be grateful I know I am

  8. Ciara Ciara says:

    well this was a huge disappointment i loved the year of magical thinking didion's memoir about the unexpected sudden death of her husband to which blue nights will inevitably be compared the most positive thing i can say about blue nights is that its length around 180 pages ginormous font make it a uick readthis book is a mishmash memoir about the death of didion's adopted daughter uintana didion's inability to come to terms with her own aging the two topics don't mesh well the incomprehensible leaping back forth saps each story of its own momentum didion also employed this weird writerly device of obsessive repetition stories about her daughter's early years something the doctor said as uintana was dying in the ICU didion's observations of what uintana wore to be married in which functioned to drain the emotional resonance from the story if an editor excised every repetitive phrase from the book you might seriously be left with about twenty pages that's not even an exaggeration it's so constant it almost reads like a picture book for infants personally i was very put off by the passage in which didion goes on on ON about a mansion that she her husband bought in brentwood when uintana was twelve years old this segued into reminisces about uintana's adoption how the couple's wealthy friends showered them in sixty various linen infant dresses each of which had to be washed hung out to dry by hand by their capable undocumented spanish speaking maid in this turned into flashbacks about vacationing in a villa in the south of france attended to by natasha richardson that turned into didion's recollections of natasha richardson's death from a head injury while skiing didion writes over over again tasha didn't deserve this which may be true but the corollary to such a statement is that someone out there DOES deserve to die from a head injury while skiing it's just one of those facile bland things people say when faced with an unexpected death while i can perhaps give a person a pass on not knowing what to say while they are actually standing in the ICU staring down the barrel of the death of a loved one i do expect a bit from a professional writer who has been publishing consistently for over forty years had a whole team of editors at her disposal while putting this book togetherback to the mansion the linen dresses etc didion remarks that some people might hear this story assume that uintana's childhood was one of privilege didion flips out at this point writes privilege is an accusation privilege is an insult how dare you suggest that my family is privileged? how dare you suggest that my daughter's childhood wasn't normal?i got into a HUGE ARGUMENT with a friend about this because i think that this passage was incredibly tone deaf narcissistic that it also functioned to use grief mourning to justify the normalcy of what is indeed a very privileged lifestyle i thought that was actually an insult to uintana's memory after all this is joan didion there is NO WAY that suggestions that the topics she writes about tend to reflect a privileged inaccessible lifestyle are new to her she's been writing about swanning around europe on yachts posh dinner parties with movie stars on the beaches of malibu for decades why attempt to argue the point that somehow because this is mornal for her that it is by definition not privilege especially why try to cloak it in the disingenuous mantle of protecting the innocence of one's dead daughter? it struck me as incredibly tackymy friend the child of two wealthy lawyers i should note class privileged enough himself to have all kinds of snippy remarks to level at german opera oxfords from joseph a bank railed against my lack of empathy basically insisted that i was a terrible person for having an ideological worldview that didn't crumble at the first sign of someone going through a rough time i insist that who we are when we are angry or grieving or otherwise not at the top of our game is who we ACTUALLY are if we're going to expose ourselves as classist snobs then then we are classist snobs no amount of grief will change that that even the wealthy would do well to remember that EVERYONE if they are fortunate enough to form close human bonds stay alive for a while experiences the death of a loved one i have i hope that if i started getting up on my high horse about how no one knows the suffering i've seen someone would have taken me aside said dude i know you're hurtin' but you're getting a little tacky dial down the desdemona routine a little i won't even get into didion's fears of aging which mostly revolve around refusing to gain weight lamenting a pair of four inch stack heels that she's unlikely to ever wear again due to balancenerve issues dare i say that than a few people who died young would have been than happy to trade the glamorous shoes for a few extra decades of life perspective? it's never been didion's strong suit

  9. Jennifer (Insert Lit Pun) Jennifer (Insert Lit Pun) says:

    I loved this even than The Year of Magical Thinking Special shout out to the goodreads reviews of this book that imply and sometimes state that it’s “not sad enough”—they gave me my first true belly deep laugh in weeks

  10. Fionnuala Fionnuala says:

    I had two contrary reactions while reading this book The first this is all just too private for publication Didion a sad frail woman grieving for all her lost friends and especially for her husband and daughter feels compelled to torment herself with a detailed analysis of all the occasions when she may have failed as a parent all the occasions when she thinks that she missed what her daughter was trying to tell her Each photograph or memento which she describes becomes the occasion for another another lash of the whip The reader is screaming stop by half way through Children survive in spite of not because of their parents There are no perfect parents My second reaction this is just too beautiful not to be published She may feel that her writing style has become diminished by age but I found it still uite remarkable Her efforts at being searingly honest with herself are also impressive accompanied as they are by her seeming ignorance of the basic difficulties of most people's lives I'm glad I read this elegant testament

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