Joan Didion and Me…

Joan Didion and Me...


I faithfully read Time Magazine and the last page interview. This week Lucy Feldman interviewed writer & journalist Joan Didion. I became a fan when Didion published The Year of Magical Thinking after her husband died. I then read essay collections and other works—she a word crafter, convinced of her own ideas. Ms. Didion is now in her 90s. Maybe that’s why her answers were, well, terse. Could I do any better? Here are a few attempts.

How are you feeling in these trying times?

Joan: I feel fine. Slightly bored, but fine.

Beth: I’m eager to get my hair cut, see my grandchildren. But I’ll follow the rules no matter what.

You once said that an experience with vertigo and nausea you had in 1968 was an appropriate response to what was happening in that period. What’s an appropriate response for 2020?

Joan: Vertigo and nausea sound right.

Beth: Quiet rage, but a gradual feeling of relief when the year finally ended ie on Jan. 20th.

You wrote two defining books on grief, The Year of Magical Thinking and Blue Nights. What would you say to the millions who have lost loved ones this year?

Joan: I don’t know. I don’t know that there is anything to say.

Beth: These are difficult times and loss cuts deeply. Mourning loved ones is necessary and you have a right to go through all the stages of grief: denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. But I would hope that those who have lost someone have a partner to talk to—either in person or regularly through the phone or video chat. We need each other.

Do you have hope?

Joan: Hope for what? Not particularly, no.

Beth: Of course. I don’t think you can get out of bed missing someone or mourning someone or looking at a time when you can’t do the things you love and not have a glimmer of hope—we all have to have hope.

Which feels more like home: New York or California?

Joan: Both.

Beth: I would have to alter the question to Chicago or California. After recently living in the latter for seven years, yet having been born and raised in Chicago, I would have to say I have come HOME. But there is always adjustment. Today, we have over ten inches of snow. So you could say that does require an adjustment, but I made my first snowball in seven years! This snow is “GREAT FOR PACKING!”

What do you make of the old adage, write what you know?

Joan: I don’t make anything of it.

Beth: It’s a great stepping off place, especially writing fiction. You have to KNOW something about the PLACE in the story. People mirror where they live: neighbors, public places like schools, churches. I don’t think I could write about NYC, but I can write about Chicago.

Do you ever reread your past writing? If so, what do you think?

Joan: Sometimes I do. Sometimes I think something is well done, sometimes I think, Woops.

Beth: Ditto.

Is there anything you wish to achieve that you have not?

Joan: Figuring out how to work my television.

Beth: Ditto.

What are you looking most forward to in 2021?

Joan: An Easter party, if it can be given.

Beth: Everything—getting the vaccine, shopping, trips to be with my family. Blessings.

PS These are not all the questions Joan was asked, but the ones I felt pertinent to my post. Thanks for reading.


14 thoughts on “Joan Didion and Me…

  1. I was fascinated by this particular question…..and answers……

    Do you ever reread your past writing? If so, what do you think?
    Joan: Sometimes I do. Sometimes I think something is well done, sometimes I think, Woops.
    Beth: Ditto.

    I am not a true “Writer” but I do write songs….music and lyrics. I find when I feel I have finished a piece I leave it alone for a week or so. Then I go back a listen to the melody, lyrics, and chords…..just my own vocal, singing with an acoustic guitar. 9 times out of 10 I will change a few lyrical ideas or just words, but rarely the music. And why is that you may ask? Because in a song the music will “carry” the words. You writers don’t have that luxury and hence get my utmost respect!!!!!!

    • True. I think we can fall in love with the melody immediately. Both music and writing are plastic and easily changed. I have so many versions of my novel my head spins. I need to settle on one and move ahead.

  2. I would prefer to have a conversation with Beth, rather than Joan D., any day of the year!

  3. I love this, Beth! You know, she has been one of my alltime favorite writers since, well, way back in the day. Before I even moved to Calif. Slouching toward Bethlehem? My absolute top.

    • I need to read Slouching. I read both The Year of Magical Thinking and Blue Nights and also have listened to parts of her travel works. She is amazing.

    • Hi Rena, She’s been ‘hot” for years, basically commenting on American society–in LA, in NYC, wrote a long piece about the Central Park Five. She tends to take a liberal view. But her best work was her sorrow after her husband died, THE YEAR OF MAGICAL THINKING.

  4. Short and succinct. Without preamble or excess.
    But, I am imagining, a difficult woman to interview.
    I love the glimpse into Beth’s life! 😉

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