Blue Nights Hardcover – Nov 1 2011
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“A haunting memoir . . . Didion is, to my mind, the best living essayist in America . . . What appears on the surface to be an elegantly, intelligently, deeply felt, precisely written story of the loss of a beloved child is actually an elegantly, intelligently, deeply felt, precisely written glimpse into the abyss, a book that forces us to understand, to admit, that there can be no preparation for tragedy, no protection from it, and so, finally, no consolation . . . The book has . . . an incantatory quality: it is a beautiful, soaring, polyphonic eulogy, a beseeching prayer the is sung even as one knows the answer to one’s plea, and that answer is: No.”
—Cathleen Schine, The New York Review of Books
“Blue Nights, though as elegantly written as one would expect, is rawer than its predecessor, the ‘impenetrable polish’ of former, better days now chipped and scratched. The author as she presents herself here, aging and baffled, is defenseless against the pain of loss, not only the loss of loved ones but the loss that is yet to come: the loss, that is, of selfhood. The book will be another huge success . . . Certainly as a testament of suffering nobly borne, which is what it will be generally taken for, it is exemplary. However, it is most profound, and most provocative, at another level, the level at which the author comes fully to realize, and to face squarely, the dismaying fact that against life’s worst onslaughts nothing avails, not even art; especially not art.”
—John Banville, The New York Times Book Review
"The marvel of Blue Nights is that its 76-year-old, matchstick-frail author has found the strength to articulate her deepest fears—which are fears we can all relate to."
—Heller McAlpin, The Wasthington Post
The Week magazine's 5 Best Non-Fiction Books of 2011
“The master of American prose turns her sharp eye on her own family once again in this breathtaking follow-up to The Year of Magical Thinking. With harrowing honesty and mesmerizing style, Didion chronicles the tragic death of her daughter, Quintana, interwoven with memories of their happier days together and Didion’s own meditations on aging.”
—Malcolm Jones and Lucas Wittmann, Newsweek
“A searing memoir”
“Darkly riveting . . . The cumulative effect of watching her finger her recollections like beads on a rosary is unexpectedly instructive. None of us can escape death, but Blue Nights shows how Didion has, with the devastating force of her penetrating mind, learned to simply abide.”
—Louisa Kamps, Elle
“A scalpel-sharp memoir of motherhood and loss . . . Now coping with not only grief and regret but also illness and age, Didion is courageous in both her candor and artistry, ensuring that this infinitely sad yet beguiling book of distilled reflections and remembrance is graceful and illuminating in its blue musings.”
—Donna Seaman, Booklist
"Brilliant...Nothing Didion has written since Play It As It Lays seems to me as right and true as Blue Nights. Nothing she has written seems as purposeful and urgent to be told."
—Joe Woodward, Huffington Post
“[Didion] often finds captivating, unparalleled grooves. Her expansive thinking…is particularly striking.”
—The A. V. Club
“The reader only senses how intimately she understands her instrument. Her sentences are unquestionably taut, rhythmic and precise.”
—Time Out NY
"A searing, incisive look at grief and loss by one of the most celebrated memoirists of our time."
"Both Fascinating and heartbreaking."
About the Author
Joan Didion was born in Sacramento, California, and now lives in New York City. She is the author of five novels and eight previous books of nonfiction. Her collected nonfiction, We Tell Ourselves Stories in Order to Live, was published by Everyman's Library in 2006.See all Product Description
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Top Customer Reviews
As a mother myself, I cannot think of anything worse than a child's death. Nothing. So when writing my review of Joan Didion's book about her adoption, raising, and death of her child, I want to be gentle. The truth as I see it is that perhaps Didion and Dunne ought not have adopted a child. Not all people should be parents; it is one of the toughest thing you can do in life and your thoughts and considerations have to naturally be towards the welfare of the child. Didion mentions that modern parents seem to "helicopter" their children, i.e. micro-manage their lives as the grow up and I wonder if she writes that because she and Dunne seemed to do the opposite and Quintana was fit into their lives as writers and celebrities. There is, of course, a happy medium between "helicoptering" and being fairly lax in child-raising, and I think most of us do try to stay to that medium.
Quintana was adopted at birth in 1966 and given the name of "Quintana Roo", after the area of Mexico that Joan and John loved. That name, that ridiculous name, was probably the worst thing that Joan Didion and John Gregory Dunne did to their child. She accompanied them as they lived their lives and they loved her. They didn't always seem to understand her; she was a child, after all, and they gave her what they could of themselves.Read more ›
This slim memoir deals with the unimaginable: the death of one's child. Didion speaks with devastating accuracy here and beautifully intertwines shards of the past. She addresses grief by continually circling back to the time before its advent, spiralling through memory trying to salvage what remains. But Didion finds no coherence among her memories; instead, she heartbreakingly offers an integrity that resists resolution.
Rather unfortunately, though, "Blue Nights" has a jumbled quality, with memories of Quintana giving way to those of film shoots, room service and news reports about abduction. In this way, the structure mirrors Didion's secondary and almost intrusive theme: the disorienting effects of aging. As the narrative develops, the author becomes increasingly explicit about the fact that the blue light, which warns of "the dying of the brightness," is signalling to her. She worries about "[her] new inability to summon the right word, the apt thought, the connection that enables the words to make sense, the rhythm, the music itself."
She needn't worry yet. Cognitive frailty may befall her someday but, for now, she remains an extraordinarily talented wordsmith, "sketching in a rhythm and letting that rhythm tell [her] what it was [she] was saying."
Ms. Didion has truly lived through tragedy. And she is still living her life... and writing. Admirable. I hoped from such tragedy would come many insights and observations that may help others in similar circumstances. It didn't.
I looked forward to giving Blue Nights to my mother-in-law for Christmas. We would then discuss it. I couldn't lend my name to such a book. So I gave it to the local library.
Most recent customer reviews
Excellent read. The book was very captivating and intriguing. One of my new favorites from this author and style of writing. Read morePublished on Jan. 22 2013 by Matthew Samson