Wednesday, Dec. 07, 2011

Blue Nights by Joan Didion

After Joan Didion's husband died in 2003, she stuck herself under the microscope, nearly unhinged by grief, and wrote The Year of Magical Thinking. In Blue Nights she records the further aftershocks that followed the death of her adopted daughter Quintana Roo in 2005, at the age of 39, after a long illness. Didion ranges freely over her daughter's sun-dappled life, which was both blessed and cursed by the presence of a lot of money and glamour and eccentric celebrities, and subjects her performance as a mother to agonized critical scrutiny. She also chronicles the gradual breakdown of her own body — she was born in 1934 — with great lucidity. For Blue Nights Didion has stripped her prose style down to its steel skeleton: the hour is late, and there's no time for chitchat. But her powerful intellect is still there, undiminished, as is her wry gallows humor.