Not David Foster Wallace (But Definitely Joan Didion)

I follow David Abrams' blog, The Quivering Pen, religiously.  Great blog by a great writer, who's labelled himself a "book evangelist".   Preach it, Abrams, preach it! Abrams has a great library over on LibraryThing too, which is where I first encountered him.  His novel, Fobbit, covering his experience and insights gleaned as a reporter in the Iraq War, will be released soon.  Along with Thomas McGuane (read his novel, Nothing But Blue Skies, for starters, and be moved), Abrams is to the Montana literary scene what, say, Cormac McCarthy was to Tennessee -- the young Cormac at least. I recommend Abrams and his blog, The Quivering Pen, highly.

This morning I couldn't help noticing Abrams featuring "Not Foster Wallace" in a recent post, and just had to share it, since, well, David Foster Wallace is my favorite writer blah blah blah ...


David L. Ulin is easily my favorite critic covering contemporary fiction.  He's the editor of a fabulous literary anthology, Writing Los Angeles, among many other books he's both authored and edited.

Joan Didion is my favorite essayist period.  Why I've neglected writing about her early essays collected in Slouching Towards Bethlehem and The White Album is a mystery I should figure out and correct promptly.  Her essays, memoirs and novels wow me every time with their laser-like precision that excises every bit of superfluous chaff from whatever topic she's skewering -- be it The Doors' unsavory decadence, John Wayne's waning days, Joan Baez's myopic neighbors, the abomination that was and is the Los Angeles Aqueduct, notorious murder cases -- to the point her prose could probably double for the latest innovation in nanotechnology.  Didion is the living personification of "cutting to the chase".

Her mesmerizing, elegiac memoir, The Year of Magical Thinking (2005), on the death of her husband, the acclaimed author and screenwriter, John Gregory Dunne, was one of those rare books I devoured in a day it was so damn good.  If you're unfamiliar with Dunne, read True Confessions or The Studio and see why "acclaimed" is probably an understatement in describing his under appreciated, somewhat forgotten, and understandably overshadowed by his brilliant wife's work, career.

David L. Ulin has interviewed Joan Didion in this morning's L.A. Times as the two discuss Didion's latest memoir, Blue Nights, covering the tragic terrain of Didion's and Dunne's daughter, Quintana's, early death after a long illness at the age of thirty-nine.  I already wanted to read Blue Nights before I even saw the L.A. Times piece this morning, purely because it's Joan Didion and I'm the type of fan that would read her grocery lists if only she would publish them, but David L. Ulin has that unique critic's knack at exponentially increasing one's desire to read a book even if it's a book one already desperately desires.  How does he do it?  I recommend aficionados of great reportage read the L.A. Times article and then begin dissecting his catalog of criticism in greater depth and find out for themselves.

Ergo, put David L. Ulin and Joan Didion together and -- poof -- pure magic.  Lucky for Los Angelenos, Ulin will be interviewing Didion before a live audience on November 16th for the "Aloud Series" held at Los Angeles Central Library.  That's a Wednesday night.  Attending would mean enduring those damned Los Angeles freeways at rush hour; those same horrific highways through Southern California Hell Didion, in her own Inferno mind's eye, turned anthropomorphic, transforming them into mythic concrete characters in my favorite novel of hers, her second from 1970 -- the stark and sad indictment of amoral Hollywood she loved so well and yet skinned alive as few before or after her ever have -- Play It As It Lays ...

Even if I must embark like some postmodernized Virgil upon those snail-pace circuitous lanes of urban Perdition, I think a chance to see Joan Didion live on stage (not to mention David L. Ulin) could be Paradise. 


  1. My admiration for Didion knows no bounds. Favorite writer, favorite writer, favorite writer. (Don't miss the interview with her in this month's Poets and Writers.) My gosh, I'd almost get on a plane to see this interview. I'm going to see if I can access the article in the L.A. Times.


  2. So, in other words, Thea, what you're saying is Joan Didion is your favorite writer?

    I will head over to Poets and Writers pronto!

    Well, I guess if you fly out for the interview, you'll have no choice but to reserve a room here at Hotel Chino!

    She's w/out a doubt up there for me too as a favorite. Her work is haunting, lingering long in my reader's remembrance. What's your favorite novel and favorite non-fiction of hers? I've still got a bunch of her stuff to get to.

  3. Read Dunne's book Vegas years ago. It was pretty good.

  4. I'd not even heard of that one, Peter. He was quite prolific.

    Thea, I should've put the link to the L.A. Times piece in the actual piece, but here it is after the fact:,0,2243244.story


Post a Comment