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?
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.
Is there anything you wish to achieve that you have not?
Joan: Figuring out how to work my television.
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.