A Refreshingly Honest Memoir About Grief

To love and to lose is an experience universal to humankind. None among us will leave this earth having evaded the sorrow of losing someone dear to the ravages of time, or illness, or death. As such, the stories we tell are woven with the fibers of this loss. It would be easy, then, for an author to fall into well-worn metaphors—the heartache, the disbelief, the loved one as an ever present specter preserved in memory. Yet somehow in Blue Nights, Joan Didion addresses all of these themes without pandering to familiar clichés of grief.

Having established herself as a preeminent voice on mourning with The Year of Magical Thinking, a memoir chronicling the sudden loss of her husband, Didion crafts yet another searing portrait of her daughter Quintana Roo’s premature death in Blue Nights. She is unapologetic in dismantling the comfortable platitudes often associated with loss, instead declaring the bitter truth at hand with the incisiveness that has come to characterize her writing. She recalls the reactions of friends and acquaintances following her daughter’s death: “‘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 what you no longer want to remember.” Didion indicates that sometimes there are moments in the depths of darkness from which no silver lining can be extracted—and that’s okay. For anyone who has experienced loss, this assertion is catharsis and affirmation and enlightenment.

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Was The Giving Tree a Chump?

Robert Levy is a Harvard graduate subsequently trained as a forensic psychologist. He is also an award-winning playwright, having multiple shows developed Off Broadway. His book The Glittering World is coming out from Gallery Books next month.  In May, the New York Times Book Review’s “By the Book” column asked the author…

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Rediscovering a Fictional Icon

When I was given the opportunity to work with the Nikos Kazantzakis estate on a new translation of Zorba the Greek—the first English translation to be done directly from the original Greek—I knew only of the famous film, starring Anthony Quinn. I had read other books by Kazantzakis, including one…

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The Power of Memoir to Heal Unspeakable Pain

When she was a 16-year-old Iranian student, Marina Nemat was arrested for crimes against the Iranian government and sent to the notorious Evin Prison, where she was beaten, tortured and condemned to die. Her miraculous story of survival is told in the stunning PRISONER OF TEHRAN. Here she discusses how…

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Book That Changed My Life

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So many books, so little time.

-Frank Zappa