Tonight I became a little flustered preparing some lentil soup. I've had it in my head that I would like to post here more regularly - podcasts, interviews and reviews yes! absolutely - but I've been slowly turning in my mind the notion of linking to some of the fantastic essays and short(ish) works that, beyond a retweet or a splash on the transitory facebook timeline I feel I don't pay enough respect to. The fluster arose from the fact that I have been procrastinating writing the first post in what now will come a regular (weekly, mostly) project - because I couldn't decide which piece to link to first. Pfffft. Procrastination?
Cut to: spicy, spicy soup smell drifing through the house, laptop perched on knees, cat asleep on a copy of (unread at this point) The Art of Fielding by Chad Harbach and to my left a stubby of Cascade Draught.
I considered Gillian Mear's eloquent essay 'Fairy Death,' originally published in Heat from The Best Australian Essays 2011 (edited by Ramona Koval, Black Inc), also an article I read about Lord Byron and the birth of celebrity that was published in The Independent - but the one piece that rocked my mildly bruised heart last week was an essay about reading Joan Didion that was published and tweeted by The Rumpus and retweeted by Readings Bookshop - and read by me on the Gagebrook bus I sometimes catch home.
People often create a spray of white noise around them, an energy of static that inhibits any closeness, any appearance of secret thoughts and feelings, rawness hidden behind hand gestures, chat, or the propensity to gently probe others with questions. I have my own tricks for diverting people away; it is simpler to keep the carapace intact.
But when I read I discard the shell, there is no need to be protected or closed. It is just me and the text - yeah? And this is the wisest way I think we can read - raw, open - and awake. Except when you are on the Gagebrook bus - and as I slowly read this incredibly moving essay about a mother and a daughter's shared reading of Joan Didion, penned by the daughter, Abby Mims, I felt exposed and I had to fight back tears. I have sisters and, of course, I have a mother. The relationships that Abby describe aren't the same that I have with my family, but the nuance echoed clearly.
I've read Joan Didion only intermitently; the occasion essay. One of my best friends, a journalist, talks about how important Didion has been for her writing life. I read the reviews of Didion's most recent book Blue Nights, in which she tells the story of the death of her daughter, Quintana at age 39. The reviews have generally not been good - though the admiration and respect for what she had written before has not dimmed for those who read her, excitedly and diligently. The essay is truthful and sad; an exploration of both Abby's family and Didion's writing.
The fluster which is so wrong for my newly discovered Sunday evenings, has abated, I'm glad I have commited to more regulary posts - and I truly hope you enjoy the well written, honest-to-raw essay from Abby Mims about Didion 'What We Talk About When We Talk About Joan Didion'.