Joan Didion’s Blue Nights starts off much like its precursor, The Year of Magical Thinking - with a death, this time of Didion’s only child, Quintana Roo. Two years after her husband, John Gregory Dunne, passed away of a heart attack, Didion again finds herself at a loss.
Unlike Magical Thinking, however, Blue Nights is a slim little memoir . And though it’s littered with memories of Quintana Roo, Nights seems to deal more with the idea of physical and cognitive frailty than grief. At 76, Didion admits that she’s losing her process; she worries about her “new inability to summon the right word, the apt thought, the connection that enables the words to make sense, the rhythm, the music itself”.
Where Magical Thinking felt seamless, Nights creates a cohesive whole because its individual pieces don’t fit – in this dissonance, you’re acutely aware of the author’s dwindling abilities. It’s a heartbreaking reminder that even the brightest, sharpest creative minds fall prey to inevitability – though it’s clear Didion has years of fight left in her.
Almost more impressive than the book itself is the accompanying short film, created by Didion’s nephew Griffin Dunne. Two clips have been released so far, combining visual artistry with Didion’s lyrical narration to create a beautiful representation of the novel – as Dunne himself puts it “an audiobook for the eyes”.