Sunday, December 16, 2007

Didion the Slow Learner

A while back, I praised Joan Didion's style, which led me to catch up on some of her recent writing and her interviews (in 1978 and 2006) from The Paris Review. The thing about Didion is that she seems to have sprung, like Athena, from the brow of Zeus. Everything she's published is so clearly, distinctively hers, that it's hard to believe she ever suffered a moment's doubt about her craft.

I suppose I should find it encouraging or heartwarming to read that Didion does suffer such doubts, but oddly, I find it merely ... doubtful. But see for yourself. Here she is, from the 1978 interview, talking about her novel, Run River:

It's got a lot of sloppy stuff. Extraneous stuff. Words that don't work. Awkwardness. Scenes that should have been brought up, scenes that should have been played down. But then Play It As It Lays has a lot of sloppy stuff. I haven't reread Common Prayer, but I'm sure that does, too. [It doesn't.]
Actually, I didn't much care for either Run River or Play It As It Lays when I attempted them years ago, but to suggest that Book of Common Prayer is sloppy --!

Well all right, then: may all writers be cursed with such messiness.

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