Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Coherent writing on grief, good ideas.

Suzette Haden Elgin wrote the following in an essay on grief and other things. She said it so much better than I could have:

Last night I read Joan Didion's The Year of Magical Thinking, the book she wrote after the sudden death of her husband. Not an obvious good choice for someone like me, in whose extended family there has been so much sudden death; still, I have always enjoyed Didion's books and I wanted to read this one. And it turned out to be a good thing, because she wrote about something that I haven't seen written about before -- it may be a staple of memoirs, for all I know, but I haven't seen it before -- something that it did me good to read. Which brings me to this post. "On most surface levels I seemed rational," Didion says on page 42, but she explains at length and in detail, over the course of many chapters, that she was in fact not rational at all, she was just going through the motions of being rational while being quite mad.

This got my attention because it is precisely what was true of me when my first husband -- Peter Haden -- died suddenly and without warning at age 29. I went through the motions of being rational while being quite mad. Over the years since then I've wondered now and then why somebody didn't notice what was happening and take some sort of action to look after me; reading Didion, I suppose that it must have been because "on most surface levels I seemed rational."

Read the whole thing. It left me inarticulate, but it is so very well written, as are many of the comments.

For something completely different, yet on the same theme, if you feel overwhelmed in the holiday season, try a fondue meal for Thanksgiving or Christmas (kind of like we do Chinese food for Christmas Eve).

We do group meals with friends, but if you can't cope with having other people, try fondue.

Naiah has a great essay on how to do it: Our fondue Thanksgiving

Well worth considering.


Anonymous said...


Hmmm. It sounds like an interesting book. Since I'm in the middle of an anti-intellectual era in my life, I have been thinking a lot about reason vs madness. I am not actually doing much reading these days (I have a strong aversion to it now; weird for a college English teacher!), but if I can get my mind and heart and soul motivated to read again, this looks like an interesting book.

Karen D. Austin

Stephen said...

My wife really enjoyed it, I need to read it after I finish Glass Palace.

annegb said...

I loved Glass Palace. I know it's hard to read, but it's so much like my childhood. I can't remember exactly, but I think she lived in Austin and Eureka, Nevada? I lived in Tonopah and other Nevada towns. I could really relate.

I've glanced at Joan Didion's book, but not opened it. I, too, feel like I'm losing my mind at times.