Joan Didion

Joan
Didion
1934

American Novelist

Author Quotes

We tell ourselves stories in order to live. The princess is caged in the consulate. The man with the candy will lead the children into the sea. The naked woman on the ledge outside the window on the sixteenth floor is a victim of accident, or the naked woman is an exhibitionist, and it would be 'interesting' to know which. We tell ourselves that it makes some difference whether the naked woman is about to commit a mortal sin or is about to register a political protest or is about to be, the Aristophanic view, snatched back to the human condition by the fireman in priest's clothing just visible in the window behind her, the one smiling at the telephoto lens. We look for the sermon in the suicide, for the social or moral lesson in the murder of five. We interpret what we see, select the most workable of the multiple choices. We live entirely... by the imposition of a narrative line upon disparate images, by the 'ideas' with which we have learned to freeze the shifting phantasmagoria ? which is our actual experience.

Writing fiction is for me a fraught business, an occasion of daily dread for at least the first half of the novel, and sometimes all the way through. The work process is totally different from writing nonfiction. You have to sit down every day and make it up.

Time is the school in which we learn. Time is the fire in which we burn.

We were not having any fun, he had recently begun pointing out. I would take exception (didn't we do this, didn't we do that) but I had also known what he meant. He meant doing things not because we were expected to do them or had always done them or should do them but because we wanted to do them. He meant wanting. He meant living.

Writing is hostile in that you're trying to make somebody see something the way you see it, trying to impose your idea, your picture. It's hostile to try to wrench around someone else's mind that way. Quite often you want to tell somebody your dream, your nightmare. Well, nobody wants to hear about someone else's dream, good or bad; nobody wants to walk around with it. The writer is always tricking the reader into listening to the dream.

To assign unanswered letters their proper weight, to free us from the expectations of others, to give us back to ourselves--there lies the great, the singular power of self-respect. Without it, one eventually discovers the final turn of the screw: one runs away to find oneself, and finds no one at home.

We were that generation called ''silent,'' but we were silent neither, as some thought, because we shared the period's official optimism nor, as others thought, because we feared its official repression. We were silent because the exhilaration of social action seemed to many of us just one more way of escaping the personal, of masking for a while that dread of the meaningless which was man's fate.

Yes, but another writer I read in high school who just knocked me out was Theodore Dreiser. I read An American Tragedy all in one weekend and couldn't put it down - I locked myself in my room. Now that was antithetical to every other book I was reading at the time because Dreiser really had no style, but it was powerful.

To cure jealousy is to see it for what it is, a dissatisfaction with self, an impossible claim that one should be at once Rose Bowl princess, medieval scholar, Saint Joan, Milly Theale, Temple Drake, Eleanor of Aquitaine, one

We write to discover what we think.

You couldn't pay for her hats,' her father, a ship's captain, had told her suitors by way of discouragement, and perhaps they had all been discouraged but my grandfather, an innocent from the Georgetown Divide who read books.

To have that sense of one's intrinsic worth which constitutes self-respect is potentially to have everything: the ability to discriminate, to love and to remain indifferent. To lack it is to be locked within oneself, paradoxically incapable of either love or indifference. If we do not respect ourselves, we are on the one hand forced to despise those who have so few resources as to consort with us, so little perception as to remain blind to our fatal weaknesses. On the other, we are peculiarly in thrall to everyone we see, curiously determined to live out - since our self-image is untenable - their false notions of us.

Western Attitudes Toward Death.

You had to feel the swell change. You had to go with the change. He told me that. No eye is on the sparrow but he did tell me that.

There could be no snakes in Quintana Roo's garden. Only later did I see that I had been raising her as a doll.

Vanish. Pass into nothingness: the Keats line that frightened her. Fade as the blue nights fade, go as the brightness goes. Go back into the blue. I myself placed her ashes in the wall. I myself saw the cathedral doors locked at six. I know what it is I am now experiencing. I know what the frailty is, I know what the fear is. The fear is not for what is lost. What is lost is already in the wall. What is lost is already behind the locked doors. The fear is for what is still to be lost. You may see nothing still to be lost. Yet there is no day in her life on which I do not see her.

What does it cost to lose those weeks, that light, the very nights in the year preferred over all others? Can you evade the dying of the brightness? Or do you evade only its warning? Where are you left if you miss the message the blue nights bring?

You have to pick the places you don't walk away from.

There is in Hollywood, as in all cultures in which gambling is the central activity, a lowered sexual energy, an inability to devote more than token attention to the preoccupations of the society outside. The action is everything, more consuming than sex, more immediate than politics; more important always than the acquisition of money, which is never, for the gambler, the true point of the exercise.

Was it only by dreaming or writing that I could find out what I thought?

What I want to tell you today is not to move into that world where you're alone with yourself and your mantra and your fitness program or whatever it is that you might use to try to control the world by closing it out. I want to tell you just to live in the mess. Throw yourself out into the convulsions of the world. I'm not telling you to make the world better, because I don't believe progress is necessarily part of the package. I'm telling you to live in it. Try and get it. Take chances, make your own work, take pride in it. Seize the moment.

You have your wonderful memories, people said later, as if memories were solace. Memories are not. Memories are by definition of times past, things gone. Memories are the Westlake uniforms in the closet, the faded and cracked photographs, the invitations to the weddings of the people who are no longer married, the mass cards from the funerals of the people whose faces you no longer remember. Memories are what you no longer want to remember.

There is no real way to deal with everything we lose.

Was there ever in anyone's life span a point free in time, devoid of memory, a night when choice was any more than the sum of all the choices gone before?

What these men represented was not 'The West' but what was for this century a relatively new kind of monied class in America, a group devoid of social responsibilities because their ties to any one place had been so attenuated.

Author Picture
First Name
Joan
Last Name
Didion
Birth Date
1934
Bio

American Novelist