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Joan Didion is someone I read obsessively in my twenties and early thirties. I hadn't yet given up the idea of becoming a writer. I've never had a mentor, but her essays in particular had a strong teaching influence. They always stirred in me the desire to write and the weird belief that maybe I could, something akin to how listening to John Wesley Harding (the Dylan album) always makes me think I could write songs.
I approached The Year of Magical Thinking with caution. I'd been moved by what Steve Evans said about reading it--I felt a similar panic would arise in me. But I was already sad, sick too, when the book showed up in my mailbox.
"Do you always have to be right? He had said that." I identified, despite the big differences between our styles of living, with Didion's descriptions of her marriage ("we were each the person the other trusted")--& because I related so much to its round-the-clock togetherness, was especially struck by allusions to its difficulties and by what she seemed to feel, later, that she hadn't seen or seen to. (That old saw? Not in her hands.)
Certain scenes from the book keep coming back to me. For instance: she is under contract to begin a column for Life magazine. Life's idea for the first column is that she introduce herself, "let the readers know who you are." She plans to write it from Honolulu, where she and her husband and three-year-old daughter are when news of the My Lai massacre breaks. "It seemed to me that given this news I should write it from Saigon." It's a Sunday. She calls her editor, his wife says he will have to call her back.
I got off the bus. I stood and watched it travel down the street, stop, turn left at the blinking stoplight. No one anywhere. A seagull. This is it, I thought. I picked up my suitcase. (Detectives are either alone or part of a team.)
It's been a bleak holiday season with/in my family. Doleful is the word that kept coming to mind. "Forlorn! the very word is like a bell"--but I thought forlorn was not exactly right, so I looked it up & found for the phrase "forlorn hope": "originally denoted a band of soldiers picked to begin an attack, many of whom would not survive; the current sense (mid 17th cent.) derives from a misunderstanding of the etymology."
In forlorn hope, some people in the family read the book on suicide. It was on his kitchen table. I finally read The Year of Magical Thinking. Managed to meet necessary deadlines. Fell further behind in correspondence (in both senses). Mostly I've been sick, twice since Thanksgiving, just now getting over my last weeks-long bout with the flu. Influenza, from influence: "the power of persons or things to produce effects on others by intangible or indirect means."
I wasn't strong enough to ward off the influence. After a while, you can start to feel that it will just be this way from now on. The line, maybe from a George Jones song, "I've aged twenty years in five" comes to mind. (This must be a list of visitors to my mind.)
"I don't know if you've noticed, but the family is shrinking." Right before the funeral, one of us slipped and broke his leg. "Many sitting in darkness." Some people in the family believe in things that they want the rest of us to believe too. Could be found in books. "Everything was there to teach us." Of suicides, only 15% leave a note. (Learned from a book.)
"This is the worst thing that's ever happened to this family." Yet somehow those of us who had quit didn't start to smoke again. The ones who really can't didn't drink or get high, though the subject was "on the table" a few times. A wooden chair was smashed in anger, but that was later. Its leg broken, this time unfixable. No rewind.
Stuff about our childhood and adolescence came up with my brothers--more than usual, I thought. Or maybe it was just that some of it was about me. Dancing with my friends to records in the basement back in Yonkers. And I remembered sitting on the swings with a neighbor girl, singing the new songs, talking about what the words might be. Not yet ten.
"Music--that's all we cared about then." "I think art, as we knew it, was just designed to get us through our twenties. After that, you're on your own."
Like any artist, I'm looking for something. Consistently. Devotedly. I look for signs as if they were signs, it's a habit.
believed to be a rock or ball of something fallen from the sky.
. . .
And that's the difference, because even though I became a pretty good fighter, I never had the confidence that you have to have to be great. The secret to being great at anything is being able to relax under extreme pressure. . . You've got to be willing to relax where most people would feel stress. (Paul Thorn)
2 JAN 06
During the performance, I operated a video cue card system that provided the actors with their librettos via monitors on stage. Because the actors were all speaking simultaneously but not together, it was often difficult to determine where they were. . .
sometimes I missed my cue to change to the next card that would contain the next section of text. In these instances, Bob, playing the role of The Narrator, would yell, "Change!" as if it were part of the libretto. *