I was surprised, I don't know why, at her frailty when she was escorted out onto the stage. Joan Didion is a tiny little woman, wearing winter clothes to warm her bitty body on a warm June night. As I watched her fill a fraction of her chair, the words empress dowager came to my mind. Her reading voice was a bit stronger then her appearance suggested it might be. Strong in it's style more than it's power. She read in a way that lets you know it is your job to follow along and not hers to lead you. A grandmother's voice. One that knows it possesses wisdom, but is also wise enough to know the grandchild may take or leave the lesson.
Last night I was taking the lesson. I haven't been able to read her latest book, Blue Nights, the subject of losing a child too horrific for me to visit at this time in my life, but I greatly appreciate that her last two books have been about grief, which she said she would rather not have had to do. Of course. She told a fan, "I don't recommend grief for anything." And a quote she is well known for explains why she, and I, and thousands of others, write about grief, "I don't know what I think until I write it down". Writing brings clarity to many of us. Catharsis to some. And as Joan alluded to, if reading about it helps someone else, that is a great bonus.
She isn't sure what she will write next, but doesn't think the next work will be about grief. I am anxious to know what comes after. I've included a link below to Joan's famous essay about John Wayne. I hope that she knows that to many aspiring writers like me she has as big boots to fill as the duke.