Wednesday, December 07, 2005

The Year of Magical What Now?

Oh, Joan. Joan. Where for art thou, Joan? Please, please, Joan of my "White Album," my little Joan of "Bethlehem," tell me this is a joke. Joan, honey, sweetheart, pixie stick, you can not be serious about the story in yesterday's New York Times that reported you're planning to adapt The Year of Magical Thinking, your memoir of death and depression and more death, into a Broadway show?!?

I've been a fan of Joan Didion's writing ever since I read "On Self Respect," in high school. The essay begins:
Once, in a dry season, I wrote in large letters across two pages of a notebook that innocence ends when one is stripped of the delusion that one likes oneself.
Powerful stuff, no? The section ends even more strongly, in my opinion:
The dismal fact is that self-respect has nothing to do with the approval of others -- who are, after all, deceived easily enough; has nothing to do with reputation, which as Rhett Butler told Scarlett O'Hara, is something people with courage can do without.
Now that's writing. And don't get me started on "Goodbye to All That," which I think is the best essay I've ever read about one's experience as a youngish person in New York, and possibly my favorite essay of all time.

So I say with this with nothing but respect: Seriously, girl, the fuck are you Magically Thinking? This is a bad idea. The book was good; its coda, "Life changes fast. Life changes in the instant. You sit down to dinner an life as you know it ends," is as true as it is haunting. But Broadway? A one-woman show discussing the death of your beloved husband and the chronic illness leading to death of your only child? Why? Whywhywhywhywhywhywhy?

If I've learned anything from Ms. Didion's writing over the years it's that she doesn't need anyone's blessing or approval to do this. Still, I wish she wouldn't.


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