The Best Parts of Blue Nights by Joan Didion

The Best Parts of Blue Nights by Joan Didion | Mighty Girl

My favorite parts of Blue Nights, Joan Didion’s memoir on her daughter Quintana’s death.

Do not whine, I write on an index card. Do not complain. Work harder. Spend more time alone.

I have watched tears flood the eyes of grown women, loved women, women of talent and accomplishment, for no reason other than that a small child in the room, more often than not an adored niece or newphew, as just described them as “wrinkly,” or asked how old they are.

It was a time of my life during which I actually believed that somewhere between frying the chicken to serve on Sara Mankiewicz’s Minton dinner plates and buying the Porthault parasol to shade the beautiful baby girl in Saigon I had covered the main “motherhood” points.

The very definition of success as a parent has undergone a telling transformation: we used to define success as the ability to encourage the child to grow into independent (which is to say into adult) life, to “raise” the child, to let the child go.

A doctor to whom I occasionally talk suggests that I have made an inadequate adjustment to aging.
Wrong, I want to say.
In fact I have made no adjustment whatsoever to aging.

My mother’s name was already on the marble wall at St. John the Divine.
John’s name was already on it.
There had been two spaces remaining, the names not yet engraved.
Now there was one.

baffle (n.) Something that balks, checks, or deflects.

7 thoughts on “The Best Parts of Blue Nights by Joan Didion

  1. I’m a long time JD fan and I thought Blue Nights was great. Not on a standalone basis but in the life course perspective. Good writers know others, when they see them. Right, Maggie?

    I’m also a long time MM fan, too!


  2. I *love* this book (and The Year of Magical Thinking, too, and I’m sure more of hers if I had gotten around to them yet). (Ed: Just added “Joan Didion” to my previously existing life list item #57, which is “Read everything ever written by the following writers”.)
    I hadn’t noticed / remembered the index card quote at the top of your list, but it’s beautiful and I’m so glad you pointed it out.
    The quote that ends, “Wrong, I thought. In fact I have made no adjustment whatsoever to aging” was one of my very favorites from the book.
    Thank you for posting these! It is lovely to be reminded.


  3. This book, especially with coupled with The Year of Magical Thinking, is so beautiful, so sad. Fortunately, I have never lost anyone that close to me, but JD’s expression of loss is so clear, I can feel it with every sense. In TYofMT, she describes that she did not know what to expect when mourning. In these books, she gives readers a taste, a smell, a feel of mourning and loss. Her other books are pretty incredible also.


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