All posts tagged: Joan Didion

Cassandra at the Wedding by Dorothy Baker | edge of evening

Cassandra at the Wedding

I told them I could be free by the twenty-first, and that I’d come home the twenty-second. (June.) […] It’s only a five-hour drive from the University to the ranch, if you move along — if you don’t stop for orange juice every fifty miles the way we used to, Judith and I, our first two years in college, or at bars, the way we did later, after we’d studied how to pass for over twenty-one at under twenty. As I say, if you move, if you push a little, you can get from Berkeley to our ranch in five hours, and the reason why we never cared to in the old days was that we had to work up to home life by degrees, steel ourselves somewhat for the three-part welcome we were in for from our grandmother and our mother and our father, who loved us fiercely in three different ways. We loved them too, six different ways, but we mostly took our time about getting home.Opening of ‘Cassandra at the Wedding’ by Dorothy Baker It …

Play It As It Lays by Joan Didion | edge of evening

Run River, Play It As It Lays

Somebody holds the door open for Lily in a hardware store, and she thinks she has a very complex situation on her hands.Run River by Joan Didion Something real was happening: this was, as it were, her life. If she could keep that in mind she would be able to play it through, do the right thing, whatever that meant.Play It As It Lays by Joan Didion I read Run River (1963) and Play It As It Lays (1970) back to back. Then I tried to remember what I had once read Zadie Smith saying about Didion’s fiction. I recall two things: (1) it was high praise; (2) it was in the days when my lunch hour used to take me to the Waterstones on Piccadilly pretty much every day and I would run up & down its art deco staircase high with the freedom of being out of the office, the wooden handrail smooth under my loose grip. These two points not being much to go on (giving me only Zadie Smith circa the time of On Beauty; myself …

There was coffee, there were books

It must seem to my children that my two main interests in travel (or indeed in life) are books and coffee. And they have a fair point. One of the things I love the most about being anywhere new is imagining what it must be like to live there — thinking about how climate and place shape our lives; wondering what a normal day looks like to someone who lives there. Cafes and bookshops; coffee shops and book stores; they don’t, to me at least, seem the worst place to start. I set out with just two books, The Grapes of Wrath & Joan Didion’s Sentimental Journeys. I came back with seventeen. We had to buy an extra bag for the return flight. This is just a selection. You can blame most of it — the excellent bookshops, the great coffee places — on Nicole Gulotta’s wonderful blog Eat This Poem and the fantastic collection of literary city guides she has curated there. We had the best guides — to Sonoma County, to San Fransico, …

Notes from the Golden Land

I suppose that what I really wanted to say that day at my daughter’s school is that we never reach a point at which our lives lie before us a a clearly marked open road, never have and never should expect a map to the years ahead, never do close those circles that seem, at thirteen and fourteen and nineteen, so urgently in need of closing. ‘Pacific Distances’ in Sentimental Journeys by Joan Didion I‘ve only been to the States once before: in the spring of 1992, we stayed with English friends who were spending a couple of years in Connecticut. I was thirteen. I went to school with my friend Jane (who was by then Jayne) and stood for the Pledge of Allegiance, and marvelled at the unregulated opportunities to eat fries and donuts and drink thick milkshakes that the lunch hall provided. But when we arrived in LA in the late afternoon, it seemed that I knew the tropes — the palm trees, the golden light, the impossible clarity and size of that blue, …