Award winning essayist, screenwriter and author, Joan Didion will be in Connecticut several times this month. She will be promoting her new book “Blue Nights” a stark look at aging, motherhood, and her relationship with her daughter and then also visit the Westport Playhouse production based on the stage adaption of her bestselling book,
She also will visit the Westport Playhouse production for the stage adaptation of her bestselling book, “The Year of Magical Thinking,” which she wrote following both her daughter’s grave illness and the death of her husband, writer and former Hartford resident, John Gregory Dunne, in 2003.
Introspective about the grief she bears, and the context that grief has taken in her book, Didion was in her New York City home when she very frankly, eloquently and graciously Spilled the Beans with Java.
Q: You are a celebrated essayist and author with an incredible reputation as a master wordsmith. In this day of bytes and abbreviations and sentence fragments via Twitter and Facebook and other social media, what are your feelings about the loss of beautiful prose and thoughtful sentences and the written word being demoted to “characters?” What is the future of the art of writing?
A: I am not a fan of social media. I don’t understand it. Even the movie “The Social Network” was lost on me. I worry that no one will remember what things that are actually written read like. I don’t know how many times people have asked me to do blogs, the idea is not feasible for me. In a funny way to me, a blog is not writing.
I talk to a lot of kids, college age or just out of college, and they seem to be more keyed into written word than their parents are. I don’t think social media is having as much of a negative effect on them as it is on older adults their parents. The written word has its moment. I hope it will not become a lost art. But the fact that based on the kids I talk to about the written word, those conversations give me hope.
Q: Why all the visits to Connecticut this month?
A: I am doing the promotion for “Blue Nights” in Fairfield and Hartford. I am going to Westport because Westport Playhouse is doing a production of “The Year of Magical Thinking” and I haven’t seen it since Vanessa Redgrave did it. Her understudy then is starring in this production. It will feel good to see the play again.
Q: You have watched many decades of life that have included remarkable cultural and social changes. Which changes have you applauded and which cause you distress?
A: I have no idea what has made me happiest as far as the world out there. I can’t get past the personal in my life. But I do think kids are awful smart these days, much smarter than I was. They are keyed in a way I wasn’t. They are more mature. I don’t think it’s a bad thing. It rings wisdom. I had no wisdom.
A: I am not sure what the book did. It was much harder to write than “The Year of Magical Thinking.” That book was about somebody who made it through, who got through. “Blue Nights” is about the inevitability of not surviving. I think there are some things I don’t think you are meant to get over, although some people handle those things pretty well.
Q: Is there nothing comforting in your life?
A: There are odd things like the light at night, the great light in New York this very week, the blue nights. Some memories are comforting, of course they are. They don’t sting as much anymore because I have lived with them for quite a long time. The book made me think things through which is useful.
Q: Will there be another book?
A: I don’t know what the next book would be. I have to figure that out. A month or so ago went to someone’s funeral in Connecticut and I got there early and while waiting to go into church went to a coffee shop and feel. I broke my kneecap and have not been thinking about anything except getting my knee fixed. When you are immobilized, even for a few weeks at a certain age, it is all you think about.
Q: What did your late daughter think of your writing?
A: She never read anything I wrote or anything her father wrote. I asked her why once. I thought she knew the answer. But she said that when you read something, you make a judgment on it. She didn’t want to read what we wrote because she didn’t want to make a judgment about her father and mother.
Q: If you could go back and give your 19-year-old self some advice, what would it be?
A: Be smarter in every possible way. Stay healthier, take care of yourself, exercise.
Q: What do you think is your greatest accomplishment?
A: You never accomplish all you want in life, I don’t think.
Q: Something no one knows about you?
A: I am going to physical therapy three times a week.
Didion will be at the Fairfield Public Library, 1073 North Benson Road, on June 7 at 7 p.m. and at The Westport Playhouse for the Sunday Symposium Series on June 17.
On June 28, she will be the featured guest of The Mark Twain House & Museum at a program and dessert reception at Hartford Stage beginning at 7 p.m. For tickets, $40 for non-members and $30 for members, go to marktwainhouse.org
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