Friday, August 14, 2015

The Year of Magical Thinking by Joan Didion

Nine months and five days ago, at approximately nine o'clock on the evening of December 30, 2003, my husband, John Gregory Dunne, appeared to (or did) experience, at the table where he and I had just sat down to dinner in the living room of our apartment in New York, a sudden massive coronary event that caused his death.  Our only child, Quintana, had been for the previous five nights unconscious in an intensive care unit at Beth Israel Medical Center's Singer Division, at that time a hospital on East End Avenue (it closed in August 2004) more commonly known as "Beth Israel North" or "the old Doctors' Hospital," where what had seemed a case of December flu sufficiently severe to take her to an emergency room on Christmas morning had exploded into pneumonia and septic shock.  This is my attempt to make sense of the period that followed, weeks and then months that cut loose any fixed idea I had ever had about death, about illness, about probability and luck, about good fortune and bad, about marriage and children and memory, about grief, about the ways in which people do and do not deal with the fact that life ends, about the shallowness of sanity, about life itself.
--From The Year of Magical Thinking, a memoir by Joan Didion (Knopf/Random House/Vintage, 2006).  This passage is from pages 6 and 7 of the Vintage paperback.

        July 26 2010.
        Today would be her wedding anniversary.
        Seven years ago today we took the leis from the florist's boxes and shook the water in which they were packed onto the grass outside the Cathedral of St. John the Divine on Amsterdam Avenue.  The white peacock spread his fan.  The organ sounded.  She wove white stephanotis into the thick braid that hung down her back.  She dropped the tulle veil over her head and the stephanotis loosened and fell.  The plumeria blossom tattooed just below her shoulder showed through the tulle.  "Let's do it," she whispered.  
--From Blue Nights, a memoir by Joan Didion (Knopf/Random House/Vintage, 2011).  This passage is from page 5 of the Vintage paperback.

Children's voices in the orchard
Between the blossom- and the fruit-time: 
--From "New Hampshire," a poem by T.S. Eliot, referenced on page 163 of Blue Nights.  (The other poem mentioned there is "Domination of Black" by Wallace Stevens.)