It wasn't really a good idea. But read it I did, and I actually got a lot out of it. There are no inspiring words about meaningful lives lived, or 'oh wells' of surviving, but instead, a lot of the absolute what-the-fuckery of grieving. The crazy thinking, the running through events over and over and over again in your brain, trying to see how they could have been different, how you could have made them different, and the wilful forgetting that, actually, they won't need their stuff anymore because they're not coming back. It's honest, and raw, and beautiful and devastating, and so different from a typical grief memoir that I can't even deal with it.
So. I took this as my train read one day because it's a pretty light book and I wanted to read some Didion. That first time, I cried a little bit on the train. The next time I read it, also on the train, I cried a little bit more. And repeat for the next couple of times I read it. It got easier as it went on, but it still kind of hurt to read, and it's the weirdest thing, because The Year of Magical Thinking manages to be both an intensely personal memoir about exactly how Didion felt after her husband died, and to say something more universal about death and how it affects us. I still don't know exactly how that happens, but somehow it does, unless, of course, my experience of grief has been similar to Didion's, and no one else has had such an experience, which, you know, I doubt.
I don't really have much more to say about this book, because, I mean, memoir about grief, you get the gist. I don't know if I'd recommend reading it soon after the death of someone you loved, but you know if it's the kind of thing you're going to find useful, and I for one find the majority of my camaraderie in books. Reading is kind of how I work things out, so this was sort of a perfect timing read for me, crying on the train aside. Most of all, it's made me want to read all of the Didion, because I'd really like to read things about her that won't have me crying on public transport, and because she's really a kind of awesome writer.
And, because this wasn't really a review, some quotes for you:
"In both England and the United States, he observed, the contemporary trend was 'to treat mourning as morbid self-indulgence, and to give social admiration to the bereaved who hide their grief so fully that no one would guess anything had ever happened.'"
"In each of those long illnesses the possibility of death had been in the picture... Yet having seen the picture in no way deflected, when it came, the swift empty loss of the actual event. It was still black and white. Each of them had been in the last instant alive, and then dead."
"We have no way of knowing that the funeral itself will be anodyne, a kind of narcotic regression in which we are wrapped in the care of others and the gravity and meaning of the occasion. Nor can we know ahead of the fact (and here lies the heart of grief as we imagine it and grief as it is) the unending absence that follows, the void, the very opposite of meaning, the relentless succession of moments during which we will confront the experience of meaninglessness itself."
"We imagined we knew everything the other thought, even when we did not necessarily want to know it, but in fact, I have come to see, we knew not the smallest fraction of what there was to know."
So. I left a comment. And then I hit publish. And then no comment showed up. So that's fun. Let me try to replicate it.ReplyDelete
I'm sorry for the train crying, but I'm happy you found a book that sounds like it was the right book for you at the time. and a true "what the fuck" grief memoir sounds way better than one full of inspirational but bland quotes.
Ughhhhh that is my least favourite thing that happens in the world. Fucking. Internet.Delete
I think a memoir full of inspirational but bland quotes would make me stab things right now. Maybe the reason this felt universal and SO personal was BECAUSE of it's personalness- because she didn't shy away from real things, and hard things to talk about and you're like 'yes. Yes I understand you and also, cry cry cry.'
The train crying was so upsetting. Also I cried on a bus yesterday because the woman in front of me had the same hair as my nan. I might have, you know, issues.
I agree with Alley's comment. I've heard about this one again and again but didn't know it was actually about death. I think it probably is the best thing you could have read. I'll probably add it the list once the sun actually starts shining around here, but winter is just too bleak otherwise.ReplyDelete
I don't think I knew what it was about when I bought it (I just really like that title) but it's like it's been sitting there and waiting for me for all this time. Which is sort of nice, in a way. I definitely feel like reading grief and death things is good for me right now (they can't make things any worse!) so I'm just going with it. But yeah, I'd say wait for the sunshine. Sunshine makes many things more bearable.Delete
I read this one and like you had some embarrassing crying while reading moments. I lost my mom and grief books hit me in a tender spot. I also saw this one performed as a one-woman play and it was beautiful, but seriously intense.ReplyDelete
Aw, I'm so sorry about your mum, I can't even imagine *cuddle*. This definitely hit me in the feels, but in a good as well as bad way, I think. I sort of needed it, anyway.Delete
I think many more people cry on the train than we realize. I often cry on planes, even for stupid reasons like watching a movie that isn't even that emotional but somehow has one scene that seems to get to me. I assume it's because we're more vulnerable and somewhat anonymous in those situations?ReplyDelete
I am glad that this book was beneficial enough to you that you read it multiple times.
Also, I smiled when you mentioned Alice Munro in your list of authors because YES!
Interesting theory! I think anonymity is definitely a big thing in these sorts of situations, because it's like 'it's fiiine, I can show emotion cause nobody here knows me'. But also, I mean, the book just made me really sad, mainly lolDelete
I thought this book was absolutely amazing! I've also read Joyce Carol Oates' memoir, A WIdow's Story, but ended up skimming over parts of it and didn't like it nearly as much.ReplyDelete
I have A Widow's Story, but I haven't read it yet- I am a biiiig fan of JCO though, and I've read a bit of it somewhere else and thought it was pretty good. It's a shame you didn't like it so much though.Delete
Oh man, this sounds like a heavy book to read! I tend to stay away from the subject of death because I keep thinking about my halmoni (grandma) in heaven and then I just start tearing up like crazy. Kudos for getting through with it and reviewing.ReplyDelete
I have this really weird view on things at the moment where I think it's like, I want to read things that other people have written on death because I want to read things where people have gotten through it and are writing things about it in a coherent way and stuff? Even though it's like poking a really fresh wound, I'd still rather do that then not think about it at all, I think.Delete
I'm so sorry about your grandma though *cuddle*