Best of AOT: Joan Didion Reads from The Year of Magical Thinking

August 13, 2009 by  
Filed under Best of AOT

Losing those closest to us can be a powerfully tragic and reflective event. In those times, even talking about our deepest feelings can be difficult, a fact that makes Joan Didion‘s The Year of Magical Thinking an especially remarkable book.

Several days before Christmas 2003, John Gregory Dunne and Joan Didion saw their only daughter, Quintana, fall ill with what seemed at first flu, then pneumonia, then complete septic shock. She was put into an induced coma and placed on life support. Days later–the night before New Year’s Eve–the Dunnes were just sitting down to dinner after visiting the hospital when John Gregory Dunne suffered a massive and fatal coronary. In a second, this close, symbiotic partnership of forty years was over. Four weeks later, their daughter pulled through. Two months after that, arriving at LAX, she collapsed and underwent six hours of brain surgery at UCLA Medical Center to relieve a massive hematoma (she later dies).

This powerful book is Didion’s attempt to make sense of the “weeks and then months that cut loose any fixed idea I ever had about death, about illness . . . about marriage and children and memory . . . about the shallowness of sanity, about life itself.”

This podcast features Didion reading an excerpt from The Year of Magical Thinking, a section of the book that details her thoughts and experiences in the day following her husband’s passing.

This podcast was originally recorded on November 7, 2005. The audio for this podcast was furnished courtesy of KGNU radio in Boulder which also broadcast the event. For more, please listen to the entire Joan Didion podcast, which includes an interview with author, friend and radio host, Sara Davidson.

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