I did manage to finish one book over our trip. Probably only because I was more than halfway through when we left.
I had a professor once say, in response to a complaint about the depressing books we were reading, "This is literature, not fiction."
And this was so well written and actually true, too. Joan Didion has been a favorite essayist of mine for a while. I haven't read her fiction but I love the way she writes. It's almost stream-of-consciousness but not "Joycean." Blunt, witty, sarcastic at times.
It starts like this: In December of 2003, Joan Didion and her husband of almost 40 years, John Dunne, have just returned from visiting their grown daughter at a NYC hospital. She's in intensive care for septic shock and the parents and doctors are not sure which way her illness will go. That night, as Didion is making dinner in the kitchen, John has a massive heart attack and dies. The memoir recounts Didion's next full year of grief, recovery, and survival and takes the reader through her reflection on her sometimes unconventional, but loving, marriage.
She recounts her grief as only a writer could--through words. "As a writer, even as a child, long before what I wrote began to be published, I developed a sense that meaning itself was resident in the rhythms of words and sentences and paragraphs..." At the same time, she acknowledges the inefficacy of words for expressing meaning at this point in her life. Additionally, she goes about the writing of the book, despite its intensely personal content, as a professional writer with research and analysis. Which makes for an interesting read--scientific and introspective. What's most impressive though is her level of honesty she allows the reader to experience. She really lets you into her world--crazy magical thinking and all. The book has now become a one-woman show, starring Vanessa Redgrave, currently on Broadway.
I did get weepy in parts. It might have been more from lack of sleep. But it's good, Katie, really!