August 18th, 2015
Tighter and Tighter
In the New Yorker this week, we read of Joan Didion:
She…wrote obsessively about herself—not only in her memoirs, “The Year of Magical Thinking,” about the death of her husband, and “Blue Nights,” about the death of her daughter, but in reported pieces and in personal essays, which she started producing almost as soon as she started publishing. (She eventually got bored with the genre and gave it up. “I didn’t want to become Miss Lonelyhearts,” she said.) She once delivered a lecture called “Why I Write.” She began by pointing out that the sound you hear in those three words is “I, I, I.”
I often wonder what the unedited journals of the truly great memoirists look like. Are they as cyclical as mine seem to be? Are they just bands of sameness, wound tighter and tighter into one another as the years go on? An everlasting ping pong of self-analysis. This is both unsatisfying and also necessary. Our present is built on a mountain of discarded selves.