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Blue Nights


Blue Nights Cover

ISBN13: 9780307267672
ISBN10: 0307267679
Condition: Standard
Dustjacket: Standard
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In certain latitudes there comes a span of time approaching and following the summer solstice, some weeks in all, when the twilights turn long and blue. This period of the blue nights does not occur in subtropical California, where I lived for much of the time I will be talking about here and where the end of daylight is fast and lost in the blaze of the dropping sun, but it does occur in New York, where I now live. You notice it first as April ends and May begins, a change in the season, not exactly a warming—in fact not at all a warming—yet suddenly summer seems near, a possibility, even a promise. You pass a window, you walk to Central Park, you find yourself swimming in the color blue: the actual light is blue, and over the course of an hour or so this blue deepens, becomes more intense even as it darkens and fades, approximates finally the blue of the glass on a clear day at Chartres, or that of the Cerenkov radiation thrown off by the fuel rods in the pools of nuclear reactors. The French called this time of day “l’heure bleue.” To the English it was “the gloaming.” The very word “gloaming” reverberates, echoes— the gloaming, the glimmer, the glitter, the glisten, the glamour—carrying in its consonants the images of houses shuttering, gardens darkening, grass-lined rivers slipping through the shadows. During the blue nights you think the end of day will never come. As the blue nights draw to a close (and they will, and they do) you experience an actual chill, an apprehension of illness, at the moment you first notice: the blue light is going, the days are already shortening, the summer is gone. This book is called “Blue Nights” because at the time I began it I found my mind turning increasingly to illness, to the end of promise, the dwindling of the days, the inevitability of the fading, the dying of the brightness.

Blue nights are the opposite of the dying of the brightness, but they are also its warning.

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Deb Rhodes, January 25, 2012 (view all comments by Deb Rhodes)
In Blue Nights Joan Didion steadfastly refuses to explain away suffering, or to present neatly tied ends by the book's conclusion. What she does do, and with beautifully haunting prose, is share her journey of sorrow without glossing over its ravagings. She considers her readers intelligent enough to not want to insult them with the kind of half-truths which render any memoir dull and trite.

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Viviann, January 19, 2012 (view all comments by Viviann)
Joan Didion can write, as her husband told her in "The Year of Magical Thinking," an account of the first year of her widowhood. Here she goes after what may seem a more macabre subject: loss of her daughter, of time past, and of functioning that comes with aging. She examines the grief brought by time's passage from an honest and very personal perspective, which turns out to be a lot shorter than Proust. Nonetheless, it packs a punch, on topics not quite taboo, but not widely addressed, as it opens a window on her life.
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bw, January 19, 2012 (view all comments by bw)
Hard to choose a best book for 2012. I'm voting for "Blue Nights" because it was one of two books I wanted to start rereading as soon as I finished the last page and because I have been a fan of Joan Didion's writing since "A Book of Common Prayer," but I was disappointed to see her characters become every more dim, hidden behind what she herself has called her "impenetrable polish." She broke through that with "The Year of Magical Thinking" to some extent. She breaks out even further in "Blue Nights." It is not a comforting book, but it is a powerful book. Didion refuses to follow the memoir template in which all suffering is redeemed by insight or reconciliation. I don't think she believes that suffering can be redeemed or that redemption is the point. In any case, she will not look for redemption for the sake of narrative. She prefers to look at the dark and say, "Yes, it's dark, and it exists, and it's part of life, especially toward the end."
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Product Details

Didion, Joan
Knopf Publishing Group
Hall, Donald
Biography - General
Edition Description:
Publication Date:
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8.25 x 5.5 in 1 lb

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Blue Nights Used Hardcover
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Product details 144 pages Knopf Publishing Group - English 9780307267672 Reviews:
"Publishers Weekly Review" by , "Loss has pursued author Didion relentlessly, and in this subtly crushing memoir about the untimely death of her daughter, Quintana Roo (1966–2005), coming on the heels of The Year of Magical Thinking, which chronicled the sudden death of her husband, John Gregory Dunne, Didion again turns face forward to the harsh truth. 'When we talk about mortality we are talking about our children,' she writes, groping her way backward through painful memories of Quintana Roo's life, from her recent marriage in 2003 to adorable moments of childhood moving about California in the 1970s with her worldly parents and learning early on cues about how to grow up fast. While her parents were writing books, working on location for movies, and staying in fancy hotels, Quintana Roo developed 'depths and shallows,' as her mother depicts in her elliptically dark fashion, later diagnosed as 'borderline personality disorder'; while Didion does not specify what exactly caused Quintana's repeated hospitalizations and coma at the end of her life, the author seems to suggest it was a kind of death wish, about which Didion feels guilt, not having heeded the signs early enough. Her own health — she writes at age 75 — is increasingly frail, and she is obsessed with falling down and being an invalid. Yet Didion continually demonstrates her keen survival instincts, and her writing is, as ever, truculent and mesmerizing, scrutinizing herself as mercilessly as she stares down death." Publishers Weekly (Starred Review) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
"Review" by , "A haunting memoir...Didion is, to my mind, the best living essayist in America... What appears on the surface to be an elegantly, intelligently, deeply felt, precisely written story of the loss of a beloved child is actually an elegantly, intelligently, deeply felt, precisely written glimpse into the abyss, a book that forces us to understand, to admit, that there can be no preparation for tragedy, no protection from it, and so, finally, no consolation...The book has... an incantatory quality: it is a beautiful, soaring, polyphonic eulogy, a beseeching prayer the is sung even as one knows the answer to one's plea, and that answer is: No."
"Review" by , "Blue Nights, though as elegantly written as one would expect, is rawer than its predecessor, the 'impenetrable polish' of former, better days now chipped and scratched. The author as she presents herself here, aging and baffled, is defenseless against the pain of loss, not only the loss of loved ones but the loss that is yet to come: the loss, that is, of selfhood. The book will be another huge success... Certainly as a testament of suffering nobly borne, which is what it will be generally taken for, it is exemplary. However, it is most profound, and most provocative, at another level, the level at which the author comes fully to realize, and to face squarely, the dismaying fact that against life's worst onslaughts nothing avails, not even art; especially not art."
"Review" by , "The master of American prose turns her sharp eye on her own family once again in this breathtaking follow-up to The Year of Magical Thinking. With harrowing honesty and mesmerizing style, Didion chronicles the tragic death of her daughter, Quintana, interwoven with memories of their happier days together and Didion's own meditations on aging."
"Review" by , "A searing memoir."
"Review" by , "Darkly riveting....The cumulative effect of watching her finger her recollections like beads on a rosary is unexpectedly instructive. None of us can escape death, but Blue Nights shows how Didion has, with the devastating force of her penetrating mind, learned to simply abide."
"Review" by , "A scalpel-sharp memoir of motherhood and loss...Now coping with not only grief and regret but also illness and age, Didion is courageous in both her candor and artistry, ensuring that this infinitely sad yet beguiling book of distilled reflections and remembrance is graceful and illuminating in its blue musings."
"Synopsis" by , From a former Poet Laureate, a new collection of essays delivering a gloriously unexpected view from the vantage point of very old age



"Synopsis" by ,
From a former Poet Laureate, a new collection of essays delivering a gloriously unexpected view from the vantage point of very old age
Donald Hall has lived a remarkable life of letters, a career capped by a National Medal of the Arts, awarded by the president. Now, in the “unknown, unanticipated galaxy” of very old age, he is writing searching essays that startle, move, and delight. In the transgressive and horrifyingly funny “No Smoking,” he looks back over his lifetime, and several of his ancestors lifetimes, of smoking unfiltered cigarettes, packs of them every day. Hall paints his past: “Decades followed each other — thirty was terrifying, forty I never noticed because I was drunk, fifty was best with a total change of life, sixty extended the bliss of fifty . . .” And, poignantly, often joyfully, he limns his present: “When I turned eighty and rubbed testosterone on my chest, my beard roared like a lion and gained four inches.” Most memorably, Hall writes about his enduring love affair with his ancestral Eagle Pond Farm and with the writing life that sustains him, every day: “Yesterday my first nap was at 9:30 a.m., but when I awoke I wrote again.”
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