The Last Thing He Wanted by Joan Didion

I finished a grownup book! As far as new-mom milestones go, I’ve decided this is more significant than fitting into my pre-baby jeans. Also, this only took me two and a half months. I’ll get back to you on the jeans.

The best parts of Joan Didion’s The Last Thing He Wanted:

“She had set aside the seductive familiarity of the celebrity fund-raiser.
The smell of jasmine.
The pool of blue jacaranda petals on the sidewalk where she sat.
The sense that under that tent nothing bad was going to happen and its corollary, the sense that under that tent nothing at all was going to happen.”

“If you knew [its] name, you might recall the days or nights spent on this island en route to or in lieu of more desirable islands, the metallic taste of tinned juice in rum punches, the mosquitoes under the net at night, the rented villa where the septic tank backed up, the unpleasantness over the Jet Ski misunderstanding, the hours spent waiting in the jammed airport when the scheduled Windward Air or BIWI flights failed to materialize, the piece of needlepoint you meant to finish and instead spotted with coconut oil, the book you meant to read and distractedly set aside, the tedium of all forlorn tropical places.”

“‘A lot of people get some big mystical kick out of chewing over things that happened forty, forty-five years ago,'” he said then. “‘Little sad stories about being misunderstood by their mother or getting snubbed at school or whatever. I’m not saying there’s anything wrong with this, I’m not saying it’s self-indulgent or self-pitying or any other damn thing. I’m just saying I can’t afford it. So I don’t do it.'”


specific gravity – the ratio of the density of a substance to the density of a standard, usually water for a liquid or solid, and air for a gas.

Merck Manual – A health information reference.

proconsular – A provincial governor of consular rank in the Roman Republic and Roman Empire. 2. A high administrator in one of the modern colonial empires.

facile – appearing neat and comprehensive only by ignoring the true complexities of an issue; superficial.

Alcestis – a princess in Greek mythology, known for her love of her husband.

agitprop – political propaganda promulgated chiefly in literature, drama, music, or art

3 thoughts on “The Last Thing He Wanted by Joan Didion

  1. YES! Awesome! And a far better and more reasonable goal. I love Didion, and I grew up with jacaranda trees. They are indescribably beautiful.


  2. Coincidentally, I bought this book secondhand at a shop near me a few months ago, and haven’t cracked it yet! This is going to be my impetus to do so. Hooray!


  3. Hmmm–I can’t remember how long it took me to finish Wolf Hall after giving birth. I remember taking it with me half finished to the hospital and it never making it out of my bag. Two and half months seems a perfectly reasonable amount of time.

    Do you have a favorite Didion book? I know a number of people/bloggers who seem to read Didion, and it is definitely a California thing (east coast = Anne Tyler?). However the early book of hers (A book of common prayer?) I recently tried wasn’t drawing me in. I’m wondering if another book would be the place to start.


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