My First Joan Didion Reading Experience


This post is connected to my Female Voices Reading Challenge.  If you are not familiar with my personal reading challenge then follow this LINK

I decided to read Joan Didion because I was tired of having no idea what her brilliance is all about it.  For the challenge I planned on reading The White Album and The Year of magical Thinking.  I wanted to read her earlier work and her memoir because I thought it would provide insight into what made her such a well-loved writer.  I got about half way through The White Album and had to give up.  I really hated giving up.  I truly did.  I was suffering through the book which was not long to begin with.  I comfortably arrived at the decision that I needed to read a different Didion work.

So why was I suffering through it?  It was a dreary account of California life during the late 60s and early 70s told from the perspective of a person who was depressed at the time.  While the time period was a bit of a rough spot historically….the end of the Summer of Love, Manson Murders, etc. I could sense the lifelessness emanating from every word Didion wrote.  I just could not go there.  The writing style felt foreign.  The tone was melancholic.  I just kept thinking to myself, “why are you doing this to yourself?”  I did not want to kill every bit of the drive and excitement for my challenge with this one book.  As the creator of the challenge I have decided I get a freebie.

I will admit there was one part that I did enjoy reading.  It gave me a short-lived glimpse of hope that maybe I would get through it.  The section was about the Governor’s mansion.  It was land gifted to the Reagans in order to build a home worthy of the role they were currently playing.  It was left unfinished and abandoned.  The land was inconveniently located which prevented close quarters to Sacramento.  The style in which the mansion was decorated was incredibly dated and did not fit the environment.  It was almost like Nancy Reagan was trying to make Ronnie the president of California with that house but to no avail.  Future governors chose not to use the property and actually viewed it as an eyesore on the California lifestyle.  It was quite amusing to read.  That was the only high point for me.

So Jamie.  What will you be reading in place of this drab book of essay collections? I will still be reading The Year of Magical Thinking.  I have decided that my best bet is to keep with Didion’s newer work.  I am going to pick up her recent essay collection South and West: From a Notebook.  The appeal of this particular collection is that it is a collection of her work as a whole so I will really get a glimpse into her collective journalistic writing.

I am hopeful that I will be on the right path with this change.  My next planned reading for Female Voices will be Roxane Gay’s Hunger.  I hope to start that in a few weeks.


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