“Need A Sitter?” Why yes, I do…

When I was between the ages of eight and eleven, I was all about The Babysitter’s Club.

  • I saw the film
  • I watched the TV series
  • I played the board game
  • I read the Little Sister spin off series
  • I had a favorite babysitter (Stacy) and I could tell you the one that I was most like (Mary Anne)
  • At the age of 9 Ann M. Martin did a book signing near my house and I made plans with my friend to go. That morning I woke up with itchy red spots on my skin. I actually kept quiet about having Chicken Pox so that I could get my book signed. (I have gotten more aware of, and responsible about, public health issues as I’ve aged!)
  • I couldn’t wait until I was actually old enough  to babysit, myself.
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The book that started it all (Image source: amazon.com)

In the years since then, I’ve grown up. I have babysat, myself. It’s not as fun as it seemed in the books. In fact, it’s yet another thing that sounded a lot more fun in tween literature than it is in real life (Judy Blume, I’m looking at you. Are You There God, It’s Me Margaret made menstruation sound a lot more fun than it turned out to be!) And my fondness for The Babysitter’s Club (or BSC) became more nostalgic than fanatical.

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The BSC in the 1990’s TV series based on the novels (Image source: IMDB)

But when Netflix announced a reboot, I was onboard. For one thing, Rachel Shukert (author of the guilty pleasure, too soon aborted, Starstruck series) was taking on show running duties. And for another it was a return of characters who seemed a lot like childhood friends to me. They saw me through troubles and school and with friends. And I felt like I was there for Kristy when she struggled to accept her new step-family. I supported Claudia when her Grandmother suffered a stroke. I was rooting for Stacy as she  learned to manage her Diabetes. I’m sure they all appreciated the support.

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The club as seen in the 1995 film (image source: glamour.com)

I watched the series 4th of July weekend, and was pleasantly surprised at the quality of the show. I was expected some nostalgic corniness. And yes, there’s a slight schmaltz factor here, but not as much as you might expect. For the most part, the series found a note that was intelligent without being cynical, sweet without being saccharine, and optimistic without being oblivious. I’d had sort of a stressful week with work. Watching this series over the weekend seriously saved my sanity.

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The BSC as seen on Netflix in 2020 (imagesource: Netflix.com)

The characters in the series were largely good role models for girls: smart, motivated, good hearted, and well intentioned. Yes they screwed up, but they also took responsibility for their mistakes. I wondered briefly as I watched, if there was a conscious effort to make the girls role models. If so, I don’t think it was an effort that the show made. Perhaps it was an effort on the part of the books, because the girls were pretty solid role models in those too. It was essentially a series about a group of go-getters who start their own business, in middle school. They run their business and juggle their school work friendships and home responsibilities. Sometimes they get overwhelmed.That’s when their friends come in and help out.Those bonds are tested as the girls grow together and sometimes apart.

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Boy-Crazy Stacy in it’s original book form (image source: amazon.com)

In the books, and the new series there are boys. In the book Boy Crazy Stacy (which becomes an episode in the Netflix series) we see Stacy go gaga over an older boy, neglecting her friendships and babysitting duties to go after him. But we also see her realize the error of her ways. We also see Mary-Anne become involved in a fairly healthy (as far as relationships between two thirteen year olds go) romance with Logan Bruno, both on the page and onscreen.  But the boys are secondary. They focus of the series remains on the girls. It’s about their friendships and all the aspects of their lives. That includes crushes and boyfriends sometimes. But those relationships remain one part of a richer, more complex picture.

 

Most of the episodes of the series were rooted in the books. But occasionally they were updated in ways that made them relevant to the world of 2020. When the real world tie ins were present, they weren’t preachy or overbearing. For example at summer camp, the girls learn that certain activities are only available to the campers who pay more. Meaning that campers who can’t afford to do so cannot participate. Their response to income inequality, even in a childhood setting, is very revealing of the adults that they may someday become. (The theater geek in me also loved the Les Miserables shout out when they built a barricade as part of their protest!) The tie ins to the larger world, to big discussions of the wealth gap are there. A parent may chose to extend that discussion with their child. But the show doesn’t belabor the point. Rather it lets the seeds germinate in viewers minds as they may.

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Kristy’s step sister, Karen Brewer, shares some imaginative theories with Mary-Anne in the Netflix series. (image source: vulture.com)

Another example is Mordella Destiny. Kristy’s stepsister Karen got her own “Little Sister” spin off book series (which I also read and loved). In the first of these books, Karen (age 7, with an overactive imagination)  thinks her neighbor Mrs. Porter is a witch named Mordella Destiny. In the Netlix series, it turns out she’s right. In a way.  As “Mordella” explains to everyone, she’s a woman who doesn’t follow along with what most people consider the “right” or “proper” way to behave. She’s a bit odd. And historically, people, (Particularly women) who broke the mold were called witches. She concludes, “When kids tell you things, believe them.” Wise words in so many ways.  Again, this isn’t a major plot point, but it’s a nice moment, that gives voice not only to the many accused witches of the past, but also kids who are too often ignored or talked over.

When I was a kid, my Dad didn’t really approve of my BSC reading. He didn’t forbid it, but he tolerated it with an occasional eyeroll. I think he just thought they were silly reads. So I did too, and I regarded them as sort of a guilty pleasure at the time. But watching the series this past weekend I realized that maybe there was something more to them than I originally thought. As I was writing this blog I did a search for reviews of the news series and I noticed a many other, similar, pieces by readers who felt a similar fondness in their hearts for these characters and books. That makes me think that these were more than just “silly” books. While their literary values is debatable they taught  several generations a lot about life. And business. And friendship. I hope that the Netflix series introduces these girls to a new young audience. Because today’s kids can learn a lot from them.

Did you read The Babysitter’s Club books as a kid? Have you seen the new Netflix series? What did you think?

I’ve Been…

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    In a dry spell writing wise. I’m editing Frozen Heart (and thinking about changing the title to Frost. Thoughts?) and really struggling to get things done. I keep thinking I’ll break through but I think a lot of the stressors of the past few months have made it hard for me to work. I feel like the space in my head that I usually devote to writing is being taken up by other things.  It’s hard because writing is usually a way to escape from whatever’s stressing me out, but lately it hasn’t been working so well. Any  advice from fellow writers? I feel like there’s a sense of shame we feel when this happens: like we should be more disciplined or just better somehow. Is that true or is it just counterproductive thinking?

  • Exploring The StoryGraph and still not sure how I feel about it. Is it supposed to be different from Goodreads? Because it feels very similar? For the record my StoryGraph profile is here and you can find me on Goodreads here. Feel free to follow, friend, connect, whatever.
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    Growing kind of frustrated with the fact that there are now about 8,460 streaming services out there. I’m interested in  one or two shows on each. Is there any way to watch the show without subscribing to the whole service? I don’t want to end up spending $500 a month on streaming services! At the moment I just subscribe to Netflix. Is there another service that I should be subscribing to?

  • Making themed book lists when I get stressed. Weird things like “books about witches” or “books set at sea” for the most part. It’s oddly soothing. I’m thinking about posting them on there. Should I just same them for Top Ten Tuesday when I don’t like the topic, or post them independently?
  • Reading:
    • American Royals by Katharine McGee -Trashy fun
    • Such a Fun Age by Kiley Reid- I can’t decide if the characters in this one annoyed me because they were poorly written or because they were well written. But it did present some interesting questions and situations.
    • Lock Every Door by Riley Sager– A bit of a let down after some other, better work by Sager.
    • Three Girls and their Brother by Theresa Rebeck- Someone on Goodreads said that this was like The Catcher in the Rye  meets Project Runway, and in an odd way that’s perfect to describe this satire of the the fashion and entertainment world as seen through the eyes of four teens thrust into the middle of it.
    • Future Home of the Living God by Louise Erdich- Really intriguing premise that never lived up to its potential.
    • The Group by Mary McCarthy- I had been wanting to read this for a while and sadly it didn’t live up to expectations. I started watching the film, but about an hour in, I didn’t feel like it added anything to the book. I didn’t feel like I was getting anything more out of it, so I called it quits.
    • The Runaway Royal by Lindsay Emory- I was hoping for something light and fully but this just fell flat.
    • Bird Box by Josh Malerman- Enjoyable and tense. I was disappointed in some of the changes made to the film adaptation. The writing in the book felt very cinematic and I don’t think those changes were necessary.
    • Home Work: A Memoir of My Hollywood Years by Julie Andrews Edwards- I didn’t like this quite as much as I liked the first volume of her memoir, Home. But I did like it, and I was pleased that she discussed her writing career and the inspiration behind some of her novels.
    • Final Girls by Riley Sager- This  was really fun. Nothing more, nothing less.
  • Binging:
    • The Good Witch– I’m not usually a Hallmark Channel Girl (the occasional Christmas movie aside) but I did enjoy this series, mostly for the magical realism vibe, which I wish we saw in more shows. The show did get saccharine in larger doses though.
    • Impostors– This one was witty and fun but suffered the same problem about being slightly too much in larger doses.
    • NOS4A2– I only watched the first three episodes (because that was all my preview would let me watch without subscribing the the streaming service!) but I thought it was intriguing. Maybe I’ll read the book and then if I like that take the streaming plunge…
    • The Order– I recently started this one on Netflix. I’m only a few episodes in and I’m not too impressed so far. Has anyone seen it? Is it worth sticking with?
  • Movie Watching:
    • Bird Box– A tense viewing experience but I do wish some elements had stayed closer to the book.
    • Knives Out– A fun whodunnit and “who was behind it”
    • Yesterday– I wanted this to be better than it was.  I found myself rather bored.

I’ve Been… (Lockdown Edition)

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Photo by cottonbro on Pexels.com

 

  • Editing what I once called Frozen Heart, or what I might now call Frost. Which title do you prefer? Or a different one? It’s going alright, but I think I’m at the point where I need to call in a professional editor.
  • Writing. I’ve started a new project. It’s inspired by Cinderella. I never saw that as a fairy tale I’d want to retell (my first thought is always that it’s over done) but much like the case with Beauty and the Beast, I realized that I had something to say about it. I will say it’s a Cinderella I don’t think we’ve seen quite like this before, and a Godmother who is also rather unexpected. But it’s still a very new project, so, for now, I won’t say much more.
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    Locked down. My city has pretty strict rules about staying in, but even if we didn’t, I don’t think I’d be going out much! My weekly grocery runs are about as much stress as I can take. If you told me a few months ago, that it’s the only time I’d really go out, I’d have thought it would be something I’d look forward to. But between worrying about staying a safe distance from others and showering and wiping down my purchases as soon as I get home, it just doesn’t seem worth it!

  • Reading. I always read a lot  and this lockdown is certainly no exception. And if nothing else, this has convinced me that it makes perfect sense to have a huge pile of unread books in your space. This is a perfect example of just such an occasion. That’s a big “so there!” to anyone who ever told me that it was a waste of space! If you want to see what I’ve been reading lately, it’s all on here.
  • Working Out. Fortunately there’s enough of Youtube to keep me fit! I love some of these workout channels. Check them out. They’re a way to stay fit indoors (all have low impact workouts or at least low impact options so you don’t need to jump around and disturb the downstairs neighbors, if you have them)
  • Binging:
    • Ozark– It’s not my usually type of show (slow burn crime drama) but somehow I got drawn in and now I’m hooked! I’m just starting the third season, so no spoilers please!
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    • Schitt’s Creek– I caught up on the finale last night. I’m really going to miss this show! Feel good viewing that makes you laugh is rare, and with the loss of this and The Good Place in the same year, it’s now lacking in my TV line up!
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    • Unorthadox– I saw this recommended a few places and I loved it. How often to we get a miniseries with no big “stars,” set in the Hasidic community, about a young woman’s self discovery? While it’s not exactly what I’d call action/adventure, this character driven drama is really compelling and absorbing. It’s only 4 episodes so you can binge it in a day if you want.
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  • Oddly, socializing a lot. My extended family has gotten together for “virtual brunch.” My book club started doing virtual meetings. And I’ve touched base with a number of people to check in and see how they’re doing. It’s not ideal, but I appreciate the various ways that we’ve found to keep isolation for being too isolating.
  • A wreck. If any of this makes it sound like I’ve mastered quarantine, rest assured I’m just as nervous and stressed as anyone else. I’m just hoping and praying for the best for myself , my loved ones, the people around me, the people away from me and the world at large.

How have you been dealing with this weird, frightening experience?

Stay in and stay safe everyone!

I’ve Been…

  • Going through a career change. Teaching was so draining that I felt like I didn’t have the energy for anything else: writing, a social life, etc. I’m doing content writing and curriculum development now. It’s been an adjustment. It still is, but I’m starting to feel a bit more confident. I’m nervous even writing that because I don’t want to jinx myself!
  • Slowly working my way through beta feedback on Frozen Heart. It’s always difficult opening yourself up to criticism, and in a way, beta feedback and editing is like going to someone and saying “please rip this apart” and then cringing while they do. The most painful feedback often ends up being the most helpful though. One beta reader was very critical of this draft of Frozen Heart but I think she also pointed out some issues that I’m glad that someone noticed before I published it. But it’s hard get yourself in the right headspace to tackle those criticisms.
  • Writing some short stories. I haven’t really decided what to do with them yet, but for some reason I had several ideas that lent themselves to short fiction (not my usual medium)
  • Discovering the joy of “have done” lists. I’ve never liked keeping “to do” lists. It feels daunting to see everything you  haven’t done yet listed in front of you. I feel like I’ll never get it done. But when I keep a list of things I have done I feel accomplished at the end of the day.  Even if the things I put on aren’t major things, seeing them written down gives me a sense of satisfaction. I’ve even started doing things that I’ve been putting off because it means I’ll get to write it down on my list!
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    Reading good books. In addition to my Persephone Readathon reads (Little Boy Lost by Marghanita Laski and Flush by Virginia Woolf, both of which I recommend highly) I’ve recently enjoyed:

  • Binge watching
    • Schitt’s Creek– How have I not seen this show before now? It’s silly but it’s great for turning off your brain and having a laugh.
    • The OA – Weird. Very weird.
    • A Discovery of Witches– I definitely liked it better than the book (which had too much filler) but it’s still not my cup of tea.
    • Bodyguard– I’d had this as a “to watch” for a while but I hadn’t gotten around to it. Glad I finally did.

The Netflix Book Tag

I saw this at Dwell in Possibility and couldn’t resist the combination of Netflix and books!

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RECENTLY WATCHED: The last book you finished reading.

The last book I finished was The Best of Everything by Rona Jaffe. It was interesting. Apparently, it was a big deal when it was released in the late 1950’s. It’s about five women who work for a Manhattan publishing company. They’re all in their early 20’s. The story follows their lives over the course of about five years, through hook-ups, break-ups, promotions, let-downs, and breakdowns. They ultimately end up in very different places from where they started.  It was interesting (though horrifying) the way these women took harassment and assault from lecherous bosses as par for the course. It’s also interesting to see the various ways that the life of a single, career focused woman has changed and stayed the same over the last 60 years.

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TOP PICKS: A book that has been recommended to you based on books you have previously read.

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By Light We Knew Our Names by Anne Valente comes up on Goodreads based on my “read” shelf. This is the description: “From ghosts to pink dolphins to a fight club of young women who practice beneath the Alaskan aurora borealis, By Light We Knew Our Names examines the beauty and heartbreak of the world we live in. Across thirteen stories, this collection explores the thin border between magic and grief.”

RECENTLY ADDED: The last book you bought.

The Night Watch by Sarah Waters- I haven’t started it yet, but I love Sarah Waters and it got great reviews, so I’m hopeful.

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POPULAR ON NETFLIX: Books that everyone knows about. (2 you’ve read and 2 you haven’t read or have no interest in reading.)

Read

 

A Discovery of Witches by Deborah Harkness- I was disappointed in this. I’m not usually a fan of vampires, but it was recommended based on several books I’ve liked, it has some great reviews, and it’s the subject of a TV adaptation… But I didn’t like the characters. I didn’t care about them. I actually found both main characters to be drama queens/kings, but I didn’t want to use the same book for two posts.

Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie– I thought that this was an insightful, intelligent, and occasionally beautiful look at race and identity in the western world. Ifemelu and Obinze are young and in love, in military-ruled Nigeria. Ifemelu has an opportunity to study in America. Obinze initially plans to join her but instead ends up and undocumented worker in London. They undergo very different experiences before reuniting in a newly democratic Nigeria.

Haven’t Read

 

My Brilliant Friend by Elena Ferrante– I was really excited to read this because I’d heard wonderful things about it. I stopped about halfway through because it just felt like words on a page. Nothing was having any impact on my thoughts or feelings. It’s rare for me to stop reading something in the middle, and I was surprised that I had that reaction to such a popular book.

Manhattan Beach by Jennifer Egan– I’ve enjoyed Egan’s past work (The Keep, A Visit From the Goon Squad) and this has gotten a lot of acclaims, so I’ll probably get to it at some point. But for some reason, the description of this novel set on the WWII Brooklyn docks doesn’t grab me.

COMEDIES: A funny book.

The Rosie Project by Graeme Simsion– I thought the sequel was derivative and occasionally crossed the line into bad taste, but this misfit love story managed to strike the right comic tone IMO.

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DRAMAS: A character who is a drama queen/king.

The Wise Woman by Phillippa Gregory– Alys is an orphan who joins a convent mostly to escape her foster mother. When Henry VIII’s men burn the convent, Alys escapes but is haunted by the dying screams of the other nuns. She ends up working in a castle as a scribe, and she falls obsessively in love with the lord’s son. But he’s already married, so she plots to take over as the lady of the manor in any way she can.  Granted her life is pretty dramatic from the start, but Alys embraces the drama and delights in it. I don’t really recommend this book, but it certainly features a drama queen!

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ANIMATED: A book with cartoons on the cover.

Cold Comfort Farm by Stella Gibbons

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Since this book is a parody of the Gothic Romance genre, it sort of makes sense that the cover illustration would be cartoons. Several characters are rather cartoons send-ups of a “type”.

WATCH IT AGAIN: A book or series that you want to re-read.

The Quincunx by Charles Palliser- I loved this neo-Victorian mystery/romance/saga. It had a very complex plot though and I only recall the broad outlines of what happened. I’d like to reread it and refresh my memory.

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DOCUMENTARIES: A non-fiction book you’d recommend to everyone.

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I’m always hesitant to recommend a book to “everyone” because for me at least, book recommendations are personal. That said, I did recently recommend Reading Lolita in Tehran by Azar Nafisi on this blog, so I’ll repeat that.

ACTION AND ADVENTURE: An action packed book.

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Fingersmith by Sarah Waters- This book can fall into several different genres, but the sheer amount and nature of the twists and turns that it took certainly made it feel action packed! The second half of the novel had one “WTF!” revelation after another.

NEW RELEASES: A book that just came out or will be coming out soon that you can’t wait to read.

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As always, there are a number of books that I’m excited to read ASAP, but The Mermaid and Mrs. Hancock comes to mind first. I’m trying to moderate my expectations because I’ve been disappointed before, but this combination of historical fiction and magical realism seems to be just my kind of weird.

I’ve Been

  • Eagerly anticipating my spring break, and now it’s finally here. So far this break has consisted of some hardcore resting.
  • Loving this blog. Catbird is a Brooklyn jewelry shop. While I like jewelry as much as the next girl, I normally wouldn’t follow a jewelry store’s blog, but with lots of literary quotes, beautiful pictures, fangirling old movies, and interviews with successful, creative women, this blog seems made for me.
  • Watching a lot of British murder mysteries on Netflix. I don’t condone violence of any kind, but I do find that murder is always more tolerable when it comes with a cup of tea and a British accent. In the past few months, I’ve watched the most recent seasons of  Broadchurch and The Fall as well as The Bletchley Circle, Grantchester, and Happy Valley,  and I’m currently watching The Five. The nice thing about British shows is that the seasons are quite short, so if I watch an episode each evening I can finish a whole season in about a week (if that!)   Of course, the downside is that if I really like a show, I’ll be through it all too quickly.
  • Trying to embrace more poetry this National Poetry Month. I’ve always had a weird relationship with poetry. While I like it, I can’t dive into it, and inhabit it,  like  I do with prose. But I do think I’m a better writer and a more aware, appreciative person when there’s poetry in my life. Right now I think there are a lot of exciting things happening with poetry, but there are also a lot of poets who have been heavily marketed thanks to social media but strike me as more style than substance. Any recommendations for poets I need to check out ASAP?
  • Editing. A lot. Since I’m not independently wealthy, I can’t spend as much as I’d like to ensure that Beautiful is well, you know… Often I’ll do an exchange with other writers for a critique or a beta read. I just did one that turned out to be way more work than I’d anticipated.
  • Deciding that my target publication date for Beautiful is July 4th. That means that I’m panicking every time I think about what needs to be done before then and wondering how I’m going to pull it off.

I’ve Been…

  • pexels-photo-260485.jpegBeginning a week off from work. Yes!
  • Getting a cold just in time for vacation and the holidays (not so much fun!) and spending the past 3 days indoors resting.
  • Watching Christmas movies from the great (The Shop Around the Corner, Christmas in Connecticut) to the not so great but fun anyway (A Christmas Prince, Window Wonderland) and breaking it up with Christmas episodes of TV shows.
  • Reading pretty much nonstop since I got off work on Friday. Finished The Beast’s Garden by Kate Forsyth, which was a beautiful (and sometimes very ugly) retelling of the Singing Springing Lark (The Grimm’s Brother’s version of the Beauty and the Beast story) set in WWII, and Seldom Come By, which earned great reviews but turned out to be just OK in my opinion. I felt like certain things were brushed over very quickly, which made it feel unrealistic. I wasn’t able to really believe in the characters, so I didn’t care about them all that much. I just started Precious Bane.
  • Entering my short story Impossible in FairyTalez’s Best Villains competition. It’s only eligible to win if it gets at least 5 likes, so go for it!
  • Wishing a Merry Christmas to all who celebrate, and the best of the season to all. 2018 is just around the corner, and hopefully, it’ll be a great one!

“Life changes in the instant. The ordinary instant”: Joan Didion and I

I hate following trends. Often an author will become trendy suddenly. Occasionally it happens with a debut novel, or with a film/television adaptation of that author’s work.  Sometimes it’s because the author did/said something particularly notable. But Joan Didion is different. She’s been a literary presence in the US since the 1960s. She’s got novels, essays, memoirs, and screenplays to her credit. But in recent years it seems like everyone and their illiterate cousin is naming her as a favorite.  This happened to coincide with my discovery of her work, so I have to confess that I am a Didion Fangirl.

“We tell ourselves stories in order to live…We look for the sermon in the suicide, for the social or moral lesson in the murder of five. We interpret what we see, select the most workable of the multiple choices. We live entirely, especially if we are writers, by the imposition of a narrative line upon disparate images, by the “ideas” with which we have learned to freeze the shifting phantasmagoria which is our actual experience.” -The White Album

I discovered Joan Didion about a year and a half ago. I’d heard the name before, and was vaguely aware of her, but I hadn’t actually read any of her work. But when someone close to me passed away, someone recommended I read The Year of Magical Thinking. I was skeptical. A lot of memoirs about grief, and books about death tend to end in platitudes and cliches. But when I read the book I felt like Didion was articulating a lot of what I felt. She wasn’t sugar coating anything. I didn’t feel like she was trying to “sell” her family’s deaths, or milk her grief for artistic material. It seemed like she had to write about the death of John, her husband of nearly 40 years, in order to understand it. Though The Year of Magical Thinking covers mostly her reaction toward her husband John’s death, her daughter, Quintana, was in a coma when he died. Quintana eventually died a little less than two years after her father. Didion writes about that in her follow up Blue Nights.  Though that book also deals a lot with aging, I again felt as though certain passages seemed to define my feelings perfectly.

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I began to seek out Didion’s other work. I read the essay collections Slouching Toward Bethlehem, and The White Album, both of which feature Didion’s explorations of America in the 1960’s.  I also read South and West: From A Notebook, which is essentially Didion’s notes on a trip through the American south in the 1970’s as well as her feelings about her home state of California.  It amazed me how she was able to recognize and articulate vast cultural divides in America back then, when many people only became aware of it fairly recently. I haven’t read many of her novels yet, but I have read Play It As It Lays, which is, perhaps her most famous. It was written in 1970 and adapted as a film about two years later.  It alternates between the internal monologue of the main character, short first person reminiscences from other characters, and a third person narrator.  The main character, Maria Wyeth, is a B list Hollywood actress, recovering from a nervous breakdown. We learn about Maria’s life, how she got to be the person she is, and what Hollywood looked like in the 1960’s (it was as bleak and grim as it was glamorous).

And Joan Didion knows about glamour. She moved to NYC at the age of 20 to take a job with Vogue. She married John Gregory Dunne, a writer for Time magazine, and they moved to California. They picked up work from book publishers and magazines and traveled together on assignments. John’s brother was Hollywood producer, writer, and investigative journalist Dominick Dunne. His children include actress Dominique Dunne, and actor/director/producer Griffin Dunne.

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With Griffin and Dominick Dunne at the Broadway opening of the stage adaptation of The Year of Magical Thinking.

It was her nephew, Griffin, who produced and directed The Center Will Not Hold, a Netflix documentary about Joan Didion. It’s sometimes jarring to be reminded that Didion’s life is very glamours, given that she seems to have very little pretense. Her prose is not flowery at all. It’s clear, observant, and nuanced. But the people who talk about her life in this documentary include friends like Harrison FordTom Brokaw, and David Hare. One of her dear friends, Vanessa Redgrave, starred in Didion’s stage adaptation of The Year of Magical Thinking in 2007. Two years later, in 2009,  Redgrave’s daughter, actress Natasha Richardson died in a skiing accident. In  one heartbreaking scene Didion and Redgrave look through a photo album of Redgrave’s daughter Natasha Richardson’s wedding to Liam Neeson (Joan Didion was a guest). Redgrave comments that she understands The Year of Magical Thinking differently now, having lost her own child.  There’s an unspoken mutual understanding in this scene. These are two women who have lost an adult child. There is no need to articulate their shared grief.

I suppose that’s one of the things I find interesting about Joan Didion. She didn’t grow up among the rich and famous. Her father was in the army, and her family traveled a lot due to his work. But she started rubbing elbows with them early in her twenties. This never seemed to faze her. She doesn’t seem to worship celebrity and glamour, not does she hold it in contempt. It’s simply part of her experience of the world. She connects to other creative people on the basis of shared emotional experience. She connects to the general public in a similar way. People have so many different perceptions of her, and no single one can sum it all up. The internet erupted in 2015 because the literary giant had commercialized herself by appearing in a Celine ad campaign. But I like that she doesn’t hold herself above appearing in the   campaign, but she doesn’t seem to think it very impressive either. When asked why it caused so much commotion, she simply said “I don’t have a clue”.

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