I have a habit of reading depressing books (note: not depressing, per se, so much, to me, but to others, like when someone asks you what you're reading and you tell them and they don't know what it is and then you describe it and then they get this horrified look like "why are you reading THAT?"). I also have the same taste in the narrow viewing pleasure I get from televesion (I watch American Horror Story. I can't help it. Mike is a horror movie fan and we started watching it when he was here and weeks later I still plan my entire life around 10pm on Wednesday nights or, if I'm too tired, 9pm on Thursday nights).
So yes, I've been absent on the blog this week. I'm not going to whine and complain about starting work every day before 8 am (know how this erodes my soul) and then, when the early-flex-timers disappear by 4pm (the reasonable time to leave when you've been at work since 7:30 in the goddamn morning, keeping in mind the commute that has you leaving your home at 7:00am), but I really want to stop wasting time on my precious blog whinging about how much work takes out of me, how I had dinner with an old friend Tuesday night who has been in another workplace other than Toronto for a number of years and how good it felt to have someone looking back at me validating how ridiculous this city is for its
a) work addiction
b) stuff addiction
c) rush addiction
And by rush I mean HURRY, I mean SCHEDULE, I mean, DRAMATIZE, and I mean OVER-EMOTE.
As my therapist said to me last week or the week before, whenever I was last there, and I'd parked on the city street in front of her office, grabbed the ticket from the automatic meter, went to shove it into the passenger side of my car, yanking the door open and ..Bang. Into the planter I'd parked snugly against:
"let the emotional reaction fit the crime". I dropped the thoughts of chipped anthracite-grey paint then and there. After all. It's the passenger door. When do I EVER see that side of my car anyway?
So. Blue Nights, by Joan Didion. The follow-up, I guess, to me, of Year of Magical Thinking. The follow-up she probably never thought she'd have to write, a book she never dreamed, except maybe in a nightmare.
Let me preface this by saying that since all my friends have kids/babies, this book, when I describe it (yes, she lost her husband of forty years in Magical Thinking. But Blue Nights goes even further. I'm not spoiling it. Just google. You'll learn for yourself). Anyway, ( I use that word alot I've noticed. My bridge. In emails, in thinking, in speech even. Must. Stop) since when I describe the book the automatic response is "I can't read that", or "Oh no, don't talk about it", I don't. And I completely understand. Just today someone on Facebook posted something random that really upset me and something I know happens in the world, but something I didn't need to see in my timeline, and there it was. Such is the modern spread of news, like a virus, hence the word "viral". I know things I didn't ever want to.
But on the other hand.
I can't stop reading this book.
Didion talks about staying current, about a magazine being our 'handbook', our guide, to normalcy, a how-to-live type guide.
She talks about people's casual judgements about her 'failure to adequately adjust to aging' (she is somewhere in the neighbourhood of seventy-seven now, seventy-five when she wrote this book, and I can tell you in no uncertain terms: she puts other writers to shame with the simplicity of her prose, but the depth of her words reminds me of Fraser and the work of hers I so love, "Must You Go?" (again another horribly depressing book, not to me, not in that way) with its un-adornments, its stripped-downed-ness. Its lack of regard for what passes for style today, ie, blogs that ruminate about motherhood, singlehood, poor-me-hood, and just plain scream "I-can't-write-hood" or, "I-don't-read-hood", or, "the only lens that sees me is my family hood" and they come from a great comfy place of vanilla beans and lattes, wool and hipster hats, (just typo'ed hate, ouch) and yea.....for me, just doesn't do it.
So give me depressing, give me a challenge, give me hidden meanings, give me middle names, situations that seem impossible, make me work for it, and while you're at it, have a life in the backdrop, don't use documenting as a way of hiding. That how it feels sometimes. It's all 'there', but it's all a big nothing. Clawing at the film of ice the reader's hands bleed and they give up. The ice must have some give.
Here; a sample:
Pass into nothingness, the Keats line that frightened her.
Fade as the blue nights fade, go as the brightness goes.
Go back into the blue.
The fear is for what is still to be lost.
You may see nothing still to be lost.
Yet there is no day in her life on which I do not see her.
--Blue Nights, by Joan Didion, (c) 2011
Good (blue) night.