Book Review

Joan Didion: The 1980s & 90s (PART TWO)

if u see a dead racoon at the side of the road

I just saw a dead raccoon.

I’m typing this post, as I type most of them now (terrified of the blank page on my laptop, comfortable with the constant eye magnet of my phone) as I walk home from work, Cubby attached to my waist by an elasticated, purpose built lead (“leash”, for my north American readers. By which I mean American readers, I still have no real Canadian readership: today I had more views from Uzbekistan than Canada. I don’t even know where Uzbekistan is. Borders Afghanistan, I’m pretty certain, but I have no idea in which direction).

This is the first time Cubby has come with me to work in about ten days, as he had some teeth removed (apparently this is very common for dogs of his size (Cubby is a dog)) and was on a course of codeine that knocked the lucky lad out for a week. It seems like a pretty good deal, in hindsight. How many teeth would I be willing to exchange for a week of doing nothing but eating and chowing down on codeine? I don’t know, but in the five minutes I spent walking south on Dufferin doing nothing but trying to decide on that number, I realised that teeth are actually useful and also none of my teeth could be removed without it being kinda conspicuous and I wouldn’t want to have to a) admit to having sold a tooth for a week of painkillers and no responsibilities (not that I have many and of all the responsibilities I do have, ultimately none of them matter) and b) while the gyms remain closed and I’m still fatter than I’d like to be, having another unattractive body feature (to go with the current weight and the eternal baldness) would just make me even more depressed. God, I’m bored. I am depressed enough to be scrawling draft poems again, tho, which is a silver lining of sorts. (The poems are very sad.)

That I’m depressed, tho, also means I’m reading slowly.

Democracy (1984)

I read this ages (a week) ago and then didn’t bother making any notes on it because I’m too sad aha.

It’s a novel.

It’s about international diplomacy and it’s very good. Very very 1980s postmodernism, in that it includes a character called Joan Didion who is telling the story about some real people (who the reader knows aren’t real) who the fictionalised Joan Didion “knows”.

It’s good, if a little too short.

Fuck, just remembered that dead racoon from 30 minutes ago. So many fucking flies, Christ.

Miami (1987)

Miami is vintage Joan Didion. Yes please.

Heavily researched and very very referenced, this is serious fucking journalism. Miami is about the eponymous Floridian city and the various ways in which its Cuban community has grown and developed, as the repeated relocation site of various waves of political exiles.

Groups of Cubans have periodically run away from Cuba to Miami since the island gained independence from Spain, with another few hundred thousand arriving during the turmoil at the start of the 1980s. I’m sure there was another wave in the nineties with the economic collapse that came after the fall of the Soviet Union (RIP).

The book, too, is about gun running to the Nicaraguan contras, about CIA-backed militias, about American foreign policy and – most consistently of all – the United States’ government’s self interest, hypocrisy, cruelty and violence.

There’s lots about rival Cuban anti-Castro factions bombing and assassinating each other in the USA, and Didion seems to give a lot of credence to the rumours that JFK was assassinated on the behest of anti-Castro Cubans who felt JFK’s policy towards Havana’s communist chief was so open as to be conciliatory and so conciliatory to be approving.

As well as this conspiracy theory, Didion also writes about the very real – and forever provable – dangers of believing in conspiracies: it’s the same as a profound belief in fate: it denies personal culpability and paves a way to forgive the unforgivable.


Oh god I just remembered that racoon corpse. Should’ve taken a photo. is 10 years old! Celebrate by sharing this post – or others – with friends (if you have any), family (if you have any), lovers (which I presume you have because this website isn’t for children), or by donating to the site via the below link so that I can maybe take a day off work some time and enjoy being alive for a few hours.

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