Tuesday, May 4, 2021

Joan Didion's conclusions

 I love Joan Didion's conclusions.  She isn't forceful or brash, as much of her as I've read, but her conclusions hit one powerfully, like a surprise ending, or a powerful poem.  Here is the ending paragraph of her Haight-Ashbery "Love in" reportage of 1967:  

"Sue Ann's three-year-old Michael started a fire this morning before anyone was up, but Don got it out before much damage was done.  Michael burned his arm though, which is probably why Sue Ann was so jumpy when she happened to see him chewing on an electric cord.  'You'll fry like rice,' she screamed.  The only people around were Don and one of Sue Ann's macrobiotic friends and somebody who was on his way to a commune in the Santa Lucias, and they didn't notice Sue Ann Screaming at Michael because they were in the kitchen trying to retrieve some very good Moroccan hash which had dropped down through a floorboard damaged in the fire."

Earlier in this section (from her "Slouching Towards Bethlehem") she voices concerns as when she writes, "We are seeing the desperate attempt of a handful of pathetically unequipped children to create a community in a social vacuum. . . At some point between 1945 and 1967 we had somehow neglected to tell these children the rules of the game . . . maybe we had stopped believing in the rules ourselves, maybe we were having a failure of nerve . . ."  

This is good, touching, and we might imagine her looking about while wringing her hands.  But she gets back to seemingly straight reporting until she reaches the last paragraph with it, and the mere reporting becomes a conclusion, a powerful one, in its own right.

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