Blue Nights

Blue Nights, like all of Joan Didion's works, is a sort of prose poem, about and dedicated to her late daughter, Quintana Roo Dunne. As the title implies, it is about life's fragility--the gradual shift from light to darkness. Didion explains:

In certain latitudes there comes a span of time approaching and following the summer solstice, some weeks in all, when the twilights turn long and blue...During the blue nights you think the end of day will never come. As the blue nights draw to a close (and they will, and they do), you experience an actual chill, an apprehension of illness, at the moment you first notice: the blue light is going, the days are already shortening, the summer is gone (p. 4).

In the 1980s, Joan Didion and her husband, John Gregory Dunne, were the literary darlings of New York. They were equally well received in California, where they had a second home in Malibu. Quintana was their adopted only child. Only 6 weeks before the publication of A Year of Magical Thinking, Didion's memoir about the sudden death of her husband, she tragically loses her daughter to complications from pneumonia.

Boris Kachka, in a New York Magazine article, sums up her book, as well as her tragic losses.
The book is about many things: mental illness, fate,and our overgrown faith in medical technology. But it is most importantly a reckoning with her shortcomings as a mother...'I don't think anybody feels like they're a good parent. Or if people think they're good parents, they ought to think again.'

Despite its tragic subject, Blue Nights is not difficult to read. Its terse, crystallized writing style
provides ample distance between the reader and the narrator. Yet one ends the book feeling that the real Quintana Roo has not been revealed. As Boris Kachka concludes, "(Didion's) clinical brand of revelation can sometimes feel like an evasion--as likely to lead the reader away from hard truths as toward them."

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