Joan Didion 0n ‘Why I Write’ Part Two

joan didion in chair at desk with typewriter

Joan Didion (born December 5, 1934) is an American author best known for her novels and her literary journalism. Her novels and essays explore the disintegration of American morals and cultural chaos, where the overriding theme is individual and social fragmentation. A sense of anxiety or dread permeates much of her work

I had trouble graduating from Berkeley, not because of this inability to deal with ideas — I was majoring in English, and I could locate the house-and-garden imagery in The Portrait of a Lady as well as the next person, ‘imagery’ being by definition the kind of specific that got my attention — but simply because I had neglected to take a course in Milton. I did this. For reasons which now sound baroque I needed a degree by the end of that summer, and the English department finally agreed, if I would come down from Sacramento every Friday and talk about the cosmology of Paradise Lost, to certify me proficient in Milton. I did this. Some Fridays I took the Greyhound bus, other Fridays I caught the Southern Pacific’s City of San Francisco on the last leg of its transcontinental trip. I can no longer tell you whether Milton put the sun or the earth at the center of his universe in Paradise Lost, the central question of at least one century and a topic about which I wrote 10,000 words that summer, but I can still recall the exact rancidity of the butter in the City of San Francisco’s dining car, and the way the tinted windows on the Greyhound bus cast the oil refineries around Carquinez Straits into a grayed and obscurely sinister light. In short my attention was always on the periphery, on what I could see and taste and touch, on the butter, and the Greyhound bus. During those years I was traveling on what I knew to be a very shaky passport, forged papers: I knew that I was no legitimate resident in any world of ideas. I knew I couldn’t think. All I knew then was what I couldn’t do. All I knew then was what I wasn’t, and it took me some years to discover what I was.

Which was a writer.

2 thoughts on “Joan Didion 0n ‘Why I Write’ Part Two

    • It isn’t easy to find the who in you of who you are. It took me years and I still have my doubts but I think deep down I knew and people kept telling me but being reluctant to believe, it took years to get to a place of contemplative belief. There are so many ways I express myself creatively but I would say writing is the strongest and I am increasing my abilities in using painting as one of my favorite ways of expression. I think we should all find a way to do whatever feels good and sometimes painful, but mostly a form of exhilaration when we really let ourselves be free in whatever we express. No holding back the truth, whether abstract or realistic. Whatever those might be. It helps to work through toward understanding life and meaning and sometimes discovering purpose of the lack thereof. Thanks for your comment. My response is my first attempt to write anything today, so far. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

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