Started reading in earnest again recently. Probably since August. Too many things I want to remember and not enough note pads, time, or folded page corners to keep all the important-est quotes separated from and filed ahead of the less important quotes, so will use this to keep track.
Am rereading all of Joan Didion’s essays and books and realised I’d never picked up The Year of Magical Thinking or Blue Nights so I have, and realised they’re both extra relevant for me right now. Sometimes things find their way to you at just the right moment.
Anyway - one of the passages I like most is below, from Blue Nights. I love how she reacquaints me with poems and literature that I’ve forgotten:
“Stop all the clocks, cut off the telephone,
Prevent the dog from barking with a juicy bone,
Silence the pianos and with muffled drum
Bring out the coffin, let the mourners come.
Let aeroplanes circle moaning overhead
Scribbling on the sky the message He Is Dead,
Put crêpe bows round the white necks of the public doves,
Let the traffic policemen wear black cotton gloves.
He was my North, my South, my East, my West,
My working week, and my Sunday rest,
My noon, my midnight, my talk, my song;
I thought that love would last for ever: I was wrong.
The stars are not wanted now; put out every one,
Pack up the moon and dismantle the sun,
Pour away the ocean and sweep up the wood;
For nothing now can ever come to any good.
So go W.H. Auden’s ‘Funeral Blues,’ sixteen lines that, during the days and weeks immediately after John died, spoke directly to the anger - the unreasoning fury, the blind rage- that I found myself feeling. I later showed ‘Funeral Blues’ to Quintana. I told her that I was reading it at the memorial service she and I were then planning for John. She implored me not to do so. She said she liked nothing about the poem. She said it was ‘wrong.’ She was vehement on this point. At the time I thought she was upset by the tone of the poem, its raw rhythms, the harshness with which it rejects the world, the sense it gives off of a speaker about to explode. I now think of her vehemence differently. I now think she saw ‘Funeral Blues’ as dwelling on it.”