Homage to Joan Didion

I was wasting time on Instagram when I found out that Joan Didion passed away at 87 years old. It was Christmas Eve and I was checking people’s stories. One person posted a black and white picture of the author from Vogue Magazine.

I clicked on it and read the caption that mentioned that Joan died on December 23rd, 2021. What’s strange is that, on that date, I was also on Instagram, checking pictures for inspiration, and I stumbled upon Didion’s quotes. I was taken with great sadness when I read that she left the world two days before Christmas. She’s probably one of the very few authors whose writings shake my soul.

Every time I was one YouTube and watched booktubers sharing their favourite books of the months, I noticed that almost all book lovers mention Joan Didion. Hence, I put some of her books in my to-be-read list, but for the longest time, I avoided buying or borrowing any of her books. From what I head, her writing was for the well-read, the knowledgeable, the elite even. I was so intimidated by a woman I didn’t know, whose work I hardly ever came across. I was scared that I wouldn’t understand anything or that I would encounter unique and intricate words.

I still loved her. Even if I hadn’t read anything she had written, I loved her. I was fascinated by the “idea” of her, the one that journalists, bloggers, and book reviewers portrayed. I’d read some of her quotes here and there and articles about her.

One day, as I was searching for a movie to watch on Netflix, I discovered a documentary on the literary icon. I watched it and I loved Joan Didion even more. Then I thought, “Wait until you read her books.”

About a couple of months later, I was in downtown Ottawa. I had just attended a night liturgy in a church close to OttawaU. I was waiting for my father to pick me up, so to kill time I went to Indigo, which was still open. I stopped at the Starbucks inside the bookstore and bought an iced drink, though I can’t remember what I chose exactly. I looked around, checked the books at the entrance, then decided to go upstairs. At some point, I came across We Tell Ourselves Stories in Order to Live, a compilation of Didion’s first seven nonfiction books. The title alone spoke to me so much. I mean, that’s what I do on a daily basis: I hear stories, write stories, get inspired by stories… in order to live (and feel less alone). I was about to get over the fear I described earlier, especially when I looked at the nice book cover, but when my dad called to tell me he arrived, I left the book. I felt like I was abandoning it. Then, I forgot about it.

Fast-forward to 2020, in the middle of a pandemic, I don’t know what made me do it, but I went online and bought the book I left at Indigo a while back. I started reading it as soon as it was delivered. I wasn’t afraid anymore. Maybe still a little intimidated. Nevertheless, I found comfort in Joan Didion’s words and writing style, something that seemed so new to me. I had never really encountered such a style before.

I’m still reading the book (it’s huge by the way), but I also don’t want to finish it. I want to enjoy every word, punctuation, and sentence the author has written.

It’s strange to mourn a person’s death when you’ve never met them. How can you explain that to people? I might sound crazy, but I connect with Joan Didion’s perspectives on life. I like that she not only wrote books, but also articles for various magazines and newspapers. I relate to that because I once had dreams of writing for different papers and fashion magazines.

Anyway, as I’m writing all this, I’m listening to sad songs from Kacey Musgraves’ star-crossed album to Taylor Swift’s sister albums folklore and evermore. It only seems fitting. I don’t know how to end this blog post without being abrupt…

Farewell Joan Didion, you’ll be missed.

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