Joan Didion Documentary: The Center Will Not Hold

By Kay Gardiner
November 5, 2017

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  • The Year of Magical Thinking is a great book. After my husband died several people gave me copies but I, too, had read it several years before. No other book that I’ve read about grief holds a candle to it.

  • Kay- I’ve been an MDK subscriber for just over a month- don’t recall how I stumbled across y’all -but I’ve found my people! Last weekend I watched the Center will not Hold. So worth watching it provided me a look back into my growin’ up years through a lens that only Joan Didion can provide. So much so that I’m going to see if I can’t find her books on tape and listen and knit. For me Joan is like rye whiskey- something I didn’t appreciate immediately.

    • …until you had a rye and ginger ale on a hot summer day, right?

  • I can’t imagine reading Year of MT after—only before. Sometimes you need all the magical thinking you can muster.

  • Thank you for this recommendation. I recently read “The Year of Magical Thinking” and was quite moved by it. I’ll definitely give this documentary a watch.

  • I saw Griffin Dunne on Charlie Rose the other night. I’m not a Charlie fan, but he had several clips of Joan Didion through the years that were interesting. Have you found Filmstruck? I had a Vivian Leigh before she was Scarlett marathon last night.

  • I saw this documentary a few days after my mother had died. Ma was 96 so her death was quite different from the ones portrayed in the documentary. Still, the documentary is a very interesting reflection on mortality and on writing. And how the world has changed as Didion has been writing.
    Didion is so thin I kept wanting to reach through my laptop and feed her various things that might tempt her appetite. I am hoping we won’t be reading Didion’s obituary soon.

  • Read all the best of Joan Didon. Everyman’s Library published an anthology of Didion’s nonfiction in 2006: “We Tell Ourselves Stories In Order To Live” (which doesn’t include YOMT). Griffin Dunne’s title for his love letter to his aunt comes from a line by Yeats, but it’s also adapted by Didion’s in her essay (the one that really put her on the map) “Slouching Towards Bethlehem,” from 1967 edition of The Saturday Evening Post.

  • I’ve read it, but after recently losing two dear friends, I think I will crack it open again. Thanks for the reminder, Kay and sending you a warm and loving hug, just cuz. XOClare

  • <3

  • I too had not previously read anything by Didion when I picked up YOMT, but she instantly pulls you in with what you aptly describe as a combination of detachment and raw emotion. Her subsequent memoir of her daughter is also recommended. Also, recently at Arena Stage here in DC Kathleen Turner did a one-woman show-type treatment of The Year of Magical Thinking. I thought it would be terrible–Turner seems so opposite of Joan Didion–but it was wonderful. Recommended if a production comes your way.

  • Based on all the comments here, I’ve just watched this, curled up with rain pattering on the roof and knitting to hand. What a wonderful, moving doco – I’ve never read any of Joan’s works but having seen this, I think that I’ll have a look at my local library for TYOMT. Thanks everyone for the recommendation!

  • Read Didion’s “Blue Nights.” I am marveling at her talent to acutely observe life, almost from a distance while she is living it. It is also worth catching youtube clips of Vanessa Redgrave acting some of the scenes from the play based on The Year of Magical Thinking. Didion and Redgrave…two very powerful and talented women who have experienced the worst that life has to offer…losing a child. They give us strength.

  • I listened to A Year of Magical Thinking a few years back. I can still feel myself in that room ( my then sewing room) hearing those words. The documentary was def worth the couch time.
    Slouching towards Bethlehem is on my device. I listen to it somethime when I am feeling nostalgic.
    Love your work here on the inter webs…

  • I’ve been hesitant for too long about reading this book. You have inspired me to read it. And watch Joan’s documentary.

  • I just finished reading The Year of Magical Thinking. What a powerful book. Thank you for mentioning it here.
    I have been led to many interesting, inspiring and wonderful things through your letters, and now your website.
    Thank you, thank you.