It feels weird to be here again, thinking through how I feel about a book regarding someone’s loss. I quote Hamlet above not because I agree with Claudius’s desire to stop Hamlet’s feelings; and certainly not because I trying to say the same for Joan Didion. Joan Didion’s pain and thoughtfulness and her research into the nature of grief and the very real sense of her own grief are all sympathetic and good and fine.
But man Joan Didion’s whole worldview irks the shit out of me. This is some real WASPy bullshit. I get it, I get…even the rich and the educated and the white feel pain and grief and when the do it’s real. But there’s this weird argument that is threaded through everything I have read by Joan Didion, and her influence on young writers today is a plague….that just because I am telling the same story as has been told forever, and even though I experience the same privilege that has upheld white Eurocentric canonical writing forever is upholding me right now….this is MY story and therefore it’s right and fitting that I get to tell it.
Her writing is real and personal, but it’s such well-tread and boring territory. I am probably done with her work.
I can quote Hamlet in the following ways to say the following point:
Gertrude tells him:
Good Hamlet, cast thy nighted colour off,
And let thine eye look like a friend on Denmark.
Do not for ever with thy vailed lids
Seek for thy noble father in the dust:
Thou know’st ’tis common; all that lives must die,
Passing through nature to eternity.
And so to Joan Didion. Everyone experiences death and grief, and it’s fitting to write about it, but the reflective but not really reflective experience of how power and privilege circulate this writing is boring and antipathetic.