The Honesty of Joan Didion

I remember despising the book Dylan Thomas’ widow Caitlin wrote after her husband’s death, Leftover Life to Kill. I remember being dismissive of, even censorious about, her “self-pity,” her “whining,” her “dwelling on it.” Leftover Life to Kill was published in 1957. I was twenty-two years old. Time is the school in which we learn.

      — from

The Year of Magical Thinking


  1. April 30, 2009 at 12:08 am

    When I was pulled out of sedation when I had intubation pneumonia in Nov. 2005, Joan Didion was doing television appearances for Year of Magical Thinking.

    Thinking it was a sign, I got the book out, and it even was the same hospital branch, Beth Israel. I read it, even if it was hard, because I thought it was a message. But then, at the end, I just felt bad for Joan Didion and her losses.

    And I felt incredibly lucky to be alive, and terribly sad that life hands some people knock out punches. But, having weathered a few knock out punches of my own, I said, “Thank you God, for sparing me.”

    And that Thank you, was the message, I think.

  2. April 30, 2009 at 12:22 am

    And I thank God also that YOU survived it, Kathleen, so that we can enjoy you with us a lot longer!!

    But, I can’t stop wondering: what ever happened to the daughter? There was some indication she might have suffered brain damage. Yes, she survived, but nowhere could I get information about whether she is in a nursing facility, or whether she’s a fully capable adult . . . That subject was just let drop in the book, I feel. Perhaps it was just too painful . . .

  3. Jose said,

    May 1, 2009 at 3:14 am

    Marianne, Quintana died after the memoir was written. See here.

  4. May 1, 2009 at 3:22 am

    Oh, no . . . thank you for the link. I had the feeling, because she was so reticent. It really was too painful.

    I keep thinking of my sister, who died after 11 days. She, too, had sepsis. And the doctors were saying, if she had made it, she might have had brain damage, which would have been terrible.

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