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Blue Nights [Paperback]

Joan Didion
3.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)
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Book Description

May 29 2012

A New York Times Notable Book

From one of our most powerful writers, a work of stunning frankness about losing a daughter.

Richly textured with memories from her own childhood and married life with her husband, John Gregory Dunne, and daughter, Quintana Roo, this new book by Joan Didion is an intensely personal and moving account of her thoughts, fears, and doubts regarding having children, illness and growing old.

As she reflects on her daughter’s life and on her role as a parent, Didion grapples with the candid questions that all parents face, and contemplates her 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 profound.


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Review

“Incantatory.... A beautiful condolence note to humanity about some of the painful realities of the human condition.” —The Washington Post
 
“Heartbreaking.... A searing inquiry into loss and a melancholy mediation on mortality and time.” —Michiko Kakutani, The New York Times
 
“Joan Didion is a brilliant observer, a powerful thinker, a writer whose work has been central to the times in which she has lived. Blue Nights continues her legacy.” —The Boston Globe

“Exemplary...provocative.... [Didion] 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
 
“A beautiful, soaring, polyphonic eulogy.... 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 New York Review of Books
 
“Profoundly moving.... This is first and last a meditation on mortality.” —San Francisco Chronicle
 
“Ms. Didion has translated the sad hum of her thoughts into a profound meditation on mortality. The result aches with a wisdom that feels dreadfully earned.” —The Economist
 
“For the great many of us who cherish Joan Didion, who can never get enough of her voice and her brilliant, fragile, endearing, pitiless persona, [Blue Nights] is a gift.” —Newsday
 
“Exquisite.... She applies the same rigorous standards of research and meticulous observation to her own life that she expects from herself in journalism. And to get down to the art of what she does, her sense of form is as sharp as a glass-cutter’s, and her sentences fold back on themselves and come out singing in a way that other writers can only wonder at and envy.” —The Washington Independent Review of Books
 
“Ms. Didion has created something luminous amid her self-recrimination and sorrow. It’s her final gift to her daughter—one that only she could give.” —Wall Street Journal
 
“Didion’s bravest work. It is a bittersweet look back at what she’s lost, and an unflinching assessment of what she has left.” —BookPage
 
“Yes, this is a book about aging and about loss. Mostly, though, it is about what one parent and child shared—and what all parents and children share, the intimacy of what bring you closer and what splits you apart.” —Oprah.com
 
“Haunting.” —Entertainment Weekly
 
“Breathtaking.... 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.” —Newsweek
 
“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.” —Elle
 
“In this supremely tender work of memory, Didion is paradoxically insistent that as long as one person is condemned to remember, there can still be pain and loss and anguish.” —Christopher Hitchens, Vanity Fair

“Didion’s latest memoir unflinchingly reflects on old age and the tragedy of her daughter’s death.”
—Best New Paperbacks, Entertainment Weekly

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.

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Customer Reviews

Most helpful customer reviews
12 of 13 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Difficult book to rate... Nov. 1 2011
By Jill Meyer HALL OF FAME TOP 10 REVIEWER
Format:Hardcover
Joan Didion's slim memoir "Blue Nights" is mostly about the life and death of her daughter Quintana Roo in 2005, at the age of 39. Quintana's death came after a year and a half of failing health and was preceded by the death of Joan's husband and Quintana's father, John Gregory Dunne, in late 2003. Didion wrote a previous memoir, "The Year of Magical Thinking" about Dunne's sudden death.

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.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars More Bookish Thoughts... Jan. 1 2012
By Reader Writer Runner TOP 50 REVIEWER
Format:Hardcover
"Blue Nights" both begins and ends in colour, when the days shorten and 'twilights turn long and blue.' Such blue light becomes Joan Didion's vehicle to articulate the intense beauty and pain that accompany awareness of imminent loss.

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."
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5.0 out of 5 stars Definitely not blue... Jan. 22 2013
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
Excellent read. The book was very captivating and intriguing. One of my new favorites from this author and style of writing. Recommend it to anyone who is a fan or newcomer to this author.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Joan didion Blue Nights Sept. 5 2012
By Melanie
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
A very good book. I couldn't set the book down, because it was very interesting. I would recommend this book. It was the first book I read from this author. I just bought another book from her. The service was very good from the seller as well.
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1.0 out of 5 stars worst read in 2011...maybe ever Jan. 6 2012
Format:Hardcover
I tried to give this book zero stars. I am an avid reader with a broad range of interests. i truly enjoyed Didion's "Year of Magical Thinking." The best phrase I can use for Blue Nights is "pure dribble." Page after page of meandering details and thoughts about who she knows and where she goes. Who cares Joan.

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.
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