Book Review

Blue Nights by Joan Didion

very little on the book, lots of rage at the slow quietening of June's global protest movement

Written July 2nd

I finished reading Blue Nights by Joan Didion well over a week ago, but i haven’t had a chance to sit down and make a post or anything about it because, to be blunt, i am busy again, i am working again and i am, of course, working on “proper writing” again, which is lovely and feels very productive but of course means that I’m not focusing on this blog and I still haven’t bothered to do what I have needed to do for several weeks and make sure that all the posts I finished and scheduled and then descheduled due to the BLM protests which erupted and then, sadly, fizzled out in June.

I panicked, I think, not wanting to seem like I was ignoring one of the most important historical moments, it felt like that, anyway, that there was no point in publishing anything in the first week of June 2020 that didn’t directly explore and engage with the need for global defunding of police forces and significant societal and cultural change. Of course, nothing has happened nothing has changed.

Some cartoons have changed their voice actors and some – shockingly recent – comedies have deleted pretty offensive racist episodes from streaming services, and now all of the corporations and centrist political parties who made vague pro-BLM statements or photo ops a month ago have all reneged on their commitments to change.

It truly felt like – as did the London riots back in 2011, tbh – like it was a moment where something important, significant, eternal, irrevocable, might happen. It does not look like it has or will. There has not been a revolution, not even a “cultural” revolution, with anyone even slightly right of centre-left now openly and directly damning all attempts to avoid a second, bigger, wave of COVID-19 and to dilute any promise of structural change that might happen without things being torn down. Nothing – except a couple of statues – got torn down, and those torn down statues seem to be the limit.

It’s sad, to be honest, for me, it is sad to see the opportunity slowly passing us by.

I am ashamed by the country in which I was born (as I always am, because I’m not indefensibly morally bankrupt and/or pig ignorant so never agree with the governments that my scum nation gleefully elects), and I am glad I am not there, even more than I was due to the handling of the pandemic. The capitulation and the ethical collapse of Keir Starmer’s Labour party makes me absolutely fucking livid.

The problem with the UK is that it’s full of people who have been educated to be thick: it is a corrupt nation with a corrupt media and a corrupt education system that enforces and encourages lies and denial of basic historical and societal truths, and seeing the “new” Labour party rapidly swing socially rightwards at this current moment is a transatlantic slap in the face.

The problems in the world are structural and inherent to the system in which we live, but – as has been borne out by the slow apathy with which the world has entered July – I don’t believe the bloodied revolution we need for systemic change will ever come. We need to educate people out of ignorance, out of bigotry, and choosing to do the opposite (as the UK has infamously been doing since the 28th of April, 2010) while claiming to own some kind of moral superiority is a crass and unfunny joke.

If you are not helping the world to be better, you are helping to make it worse. Chasing the vote of (for want of a better word) the hate-fuelled scum who never leave the empty, characterless, futureless, undignified settlements like the dire shithole[s] I “grew up” in is inexcusable.

Anyway. Yes, I think I have finally been radicalised. Though maybe that was always going to happen eventually.

///

Blue Nights is about memory, about parenthood and grief and about ageing. Yes, it was and is fucking incredible and, yes, I will almost certainly read it again. I just think Joan Didion’s writing is perfect. So neat, so human, so woefully deeply moving.

I wept and I wept and I wept – except during the very 200x section where Didion tried (and failed) to persuade her reader that she and her family weren’t “privileged” (they very very very much were) – and then I finished it and I moved on.

It has been over a week. I have read a long non-fiction book since and I have returned to full time work and I have submitted notes on another proof of the pleasure of regret (now available for pre-order!) and I’ve tidied up the on-going manuscript of poetry I’ve written since Bad Boy Poet and I’ve continued working on the weird non-fiction text about my botched attempt to read the Bible cover-to-cover, which is basically a book-length TriumphoftheNow post lol and I’ve been thinking more about the fiction (gasp!) project I started in May and I’ve done a couple of bike rides and I’ve made a massive risotto and I’ve been to the nude beach on the Toronto Islands and I’ve swum in Lake Ontario and I’ve sent emails and submitted work and I’ve gotten back back back into a routine and I’m angry about the apathy people have towards the pandemic and I’m frustrated that there have been and will be no deep changes as a result of last month’s global protests and, I suppose, I’m glad that Joan Didion exists and I cannot wait to read my way through her oeuvre over the next few years.

Yes.

Oof. Haven’t written one of these posts for ten days. Is this OK? Am I OK?

Didion’s daughter was also diagnosed with BPD, so that was nice, too, to get a bit more about that. In many ways I have embraced my diagnosis. In many more ways, I have not. It helps with my sense of self.

Yesterday, a stranger I was interviewing for a job presumed I was gay, and honestly I haven’t felt so flattered in years.

I’m going to go and buy some Spanish lessons now I have a little more money as I’m back at work.

Then I’m going to read the end of the big non-fiction book I’ve been reading and then I’m going to iron a shirt and iron my mask and clean my teeth and eat a risotto and maybe a fried egg and then – if I’m lucky – I’ll write a post about the non-fiction book and then I will go to work.

That list is far too long for the 90 minutes that I actually have available to fill.

I will reassess. Maybe I’m too busy again.

1 comment on “Blue Nights by Joan Didion

  1. And we thought the ’60s were turbulent?

    Liked by 1 person

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