Joan Didion’s 2005 book The Year of Magical Thinking was recommended to me countless times after Peter died. The thing is, I’d already read it, when that event was far from even imagining.
One afternoon, after leaving the office of our mutual dentist on 57th Street (another funny coincidence for me and you, that of all the dentists on the island of Manhattan, we had the same one), I stopped in at Rizzoli’s bookstore. Usually I headed straight for the lavish design and art picture books, but on one of the front tables, Joan Didion’s latest caught my eye. I picked it up and started reading.
I believe I stood there for nearly an hour. It was the first time I’d read Joan Didion’s writing. The story was compelling, and told with an almost surreal combination of detachment and raw emotion. And later, the book really was a steadying point for me. It helped me recognize magical thinking in myself. It was galvanizing, if not even a tiny bit comforting. I found her a most curiously cool character.
So, Friday night I watched the new Netflix documentary about her, The Center Will Not Hold, by her nephew, Griffin Dunne.
This film definitely is not a toe-tapper. But if you’re interested in loss or grief, I reckon it’s required viewing. It also gives an interesting perspective on social changes in the United States since the 1960s.
If nothing else, it was fun to see Griffin Dunne, who I’d not seen since his 1985 appearance in Martin Scorcese’s film After Hours. He’s giving notes on getting older and staying cute.
Rebecca Mead of the New Yorker reviews the documentary here. (Warning: Mead describes a moment in the film that is best experienced firsthand.)
Hey–it’s not a barrel of laughs but you will get some knitting done, while pondering mortality and wanting to curl up into a ball and cry a little.