Blue Nights by Joan Didion

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“Grief comes in waves, paroxysms, sudden apprehensions that weaken the knees and blind the eyes and obliterate the dailiness of life.”

I underlined that sentence in my copy of Joan Didion’s The Year of Magical Thinking back in Autumn of 2006 when I first read it. And it’s true. Grief is like that, at least the kind of grief that lasts more than a week or a month or a year. I just finished reading Didion’s Blue Nights. Like Magical Thinking it’s about grief; this time how she dealt with the death of her daughter. She says, “What greater grief can there be for mortals than to see their children dead.” Heavy words. I find her prose comforting, even familiar, even when she is describing heavy things. I like the slightly stream-of-conscious flavor of her diction. I like the cadence of her words. In Blue Nights she talks about memory, the blessing of children in our lives, of realizing that you are growing old, and how we deal with loss. One line keeps coming back to me. She said, “Memories are what you no longer want to remember.” Is that true? I’m not sure, but I do know that memories can be painful, and sometimes those are the ones that keep coming back to us. And sometimes even the pleasant memories can be painful, because they remind us of what once was. This was an especially poignant read for me because the book was given to me by a dear friend who knows something about grief and loss.

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