Thoughts for Thursday – Magical thinking

Why can’t I finish Joan Didion’s The Year of Magical Thinking? I have two copies: one I bought myself and one I got for Christmas. Yet, twice I’ve started it and twice have failed to complete, though I have managed to get about 3/4 of the way through.

I love Joan Didion. And the subject matter is compelling. I have to admit the inadmissable: I think I get bogged down in the morbidity of it. Maybe I don’t truly understand because I have not suffered the loss of an intimate through death. All my family members, close friends and relatives are still living. (That hasn’t applied to other novels and books, so why this one?) All these psychobabbly reasons surface in my brain: I’m disassociating to protect my psyche, I’m unempathic, I’m ADD…

And, most of all, I wonder why I am so bothered that I haven’t been able to embrace this particular book.

Just makes me wonder why some works appeal and others, even ones we really WANT to like, don’t penetrate through to the soul.

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9 Responses to Thoughts for Thursday – Magical thinking

  1. danielle says:

    This book is wonderful, but I also had a really hard time reading it due to the subject matter. It was all so sad and heavy. I had to read it straight through–if I would have set it down I thought I might not pick it up again!


  2. LK says:

    That is a good insight, Danielle. The second time I tried to read it, I was in an airplane, and I did manage to get through most of it. But it is a tough book to “pick up” again.


  3. dark orpheus says:

    It might also be the tone that Joan Didion employed – it’s not warm and inviting. In fact, some people have found it cold, but I prefer to call it distant, disassociated.

    Personally, I felt Joan Didion almost seems “shell-shocked” in Year of Magical Thinking – and maybe that’s why a reader might find it hard to *connect* with the writing.


  4. litlove says:

    I’ve just given this book to a friend of mine who lost her mother in a horrible way to cancer. It was one of those rare occasions when I didn’t read the book before giving it as a present, because I felt sure I wouldn’t be able to relate (being in the same situation as you, LK). I can imagine that kind of book could bring cathartic comfort to those who were suffering, but would be only horror and alarm to those who hadn’t been through something similar.


  5. verbivore says:

    I’ve been wanting to get this book for awhile now since I’m currently writing about a character who loses her father and (luckily) I don’t have any first hand experience. I like Dark Orpheus suggestion that Didion’s state of mind when she wrote the book might be the very thing that prevents a reader from getting fully engaged. You’ve reminded me that I should really get to this book sooner than later!


  6. Pauline says:

    If you don’t finish it right now, never mind, you might want to pick it up one day again, when you feel more in the mood… It’s not as if it were bad! But I still think it’s a strange Xmas present?!


  7. LK says:

    Dark Orpheus, I agree. Shell-shocked is a good way to put it.

    Litlove, I think you are right on the score that this book may be cathartic to someone who is grieving, and simply morbid for someone who hasn’t had that experience. Though it still bothers me that I can’t connect enough through empathy on this particular book.

    Verbifore, I look forward to hearing your thoughts, should you choose to accept that mission!

    Pauline, I think the gift-bearer thought I would like Joan Didion. At least, that’s how I’m choosing to interpret it!?!


  8. Nonanon says:

    Hey, LK,
    I don’t think this is an uncommon occurrence where any of Didion’s books are concerned. I think, interestingly enough, for a writer who is often described as “cold” or “disassociated,” the appeal of her writing often depends largely on the mood/feelings of the reader. She is not, and has never been, a “light read,” although I think she has her own kind of humor. Although I have never been one to think you have to live something to completely understand it (I HATE it when people say crap to me like “you’ll understand when you have kids,” hello, I have an imagination), that also may play a small part in your mood when approaching this book. My sisters and I have all made it through this book, but our brother died in 2003 and there’s no denying that you draw parallels. I certainly hope nothing like that happens to you. But this is an interesting book to discuss, no matter what. Put it down anyway. Someday you might feel like picking it back up, and it’ll always be there.


  9. Kristi says:

    Hi LK,I’ve just finished The Year of Magical Thinking and I’d like to link your review to mine if that’s OK. You can read my review < HREF="" REL="nofollow">here<>Thanks,Kristi (Passion for the Page)


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