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"Writers are only rarely likable. They bring nothing to the party, leave their game at the typewriter. They fear their contribution to the general welfare to be evanescent..."
-- Joan Didion, 'After Henry'
Joan Didion is a prose knife fighter. God love whoever/whatever finds their slow side trapped in a corner, facing the pointy end of Didion's prose. She is especially talented in writing about place (especially California, Washington, Hawaii, New York, Los Angeles) politics, and people. But these are just the prose steps, the shifting geology, the temporary coordinates of her attacks. The thrust of her compressed prose is directed at narrative: the narrative of politics, the narrative of cities, city papers, journalists, actors, etc. She knows language and cliché and can smell Waimea bullshit from a busy "4+lib" near Brentwood Park. She is both gift and god. She is both bounty and blessing. She is both shake and tremor. It is obvious she loves things, but isn't afraid to pull the scab directly off the things she most loves. She doesn't have time for sentimental niceties. She ain't got time for you to bleed.
In the 80s she was maturing, but losing none of her grace and none of her excellence. These stories or narrative essays or whatever are all taken from her seasoned years (1979-1991) after her long-time editor Henry Robbins died (1979). They were written as evidence to herself that she could still write after he died, that she could 'do it without him.'
16 of 22 people found this review helpful
This book wasn’t for you, but who do you think might enjoy it more?
not sure...I'm normally an enthusiastic Joan Didion fan
Has After Henry turned you off from other books in this genre?
What didn’t you like about Elizabeth Hess’s performance?
Where to begin? She reads in a weird hushed tone as if reading a baby to sleep. Not well-suited to Didion's gritty style. If a reader is lucky enough to be hired to record a book, one would think s/he would look up all proper nouns and any words that are unfamiliar. Mispronounced words: Point Hueneme ("Port Wanamay"), centrifugal, seismological, realtor (really??? a two-syllable word is too difficult???), anecdote, ancillary, Eli Broad (rhymes with road, not odd), and on and on. Really no excuse.
What character would you cut from After Henry?
Any additional comments?
Joan Didion should get more input as to who records her books. Maybe I would have enjoyed these essays more in print. I certainly love her other works.
3 of 4 people found this review helpful