Magical writing

I have just finished, sort of (I didn´t read them all), a collection of articles by journalist and novelist Joan Didion, a Swedish compilation called "Att lära sig själv att leva" ("Teaching oneself how to live"). The earliest one was written for Vogue in 1961 and the latest for The New York Review of Books in 2005. They concern such different subjects as literature (Ernest Hemingway), self-esteem, violence against women, 9-11 and the Reagans in office. Didion´s most known work in Sweden is "The Year of Magical Thinking" ("Ett år av magiskt tänkande"), a great book about grief that she wrote after being widowed in 2003.

One could assume that articles are perishable, with a sell-by date that would be long since passed at least for stuff written in the 70´s or 80´s. But these articles have a quality about them that make them interesting still. Joan Didion has ear, a talent for hearing, seeing and depicting some fundamental humanity in all her chosen subjects (or subjects assigned to her) that make the texts as interesting and timeless as a short story or novel.

There is one text in here that I read as a key to the others, a text about how she uses her notebooks. She writes that she has an urge to write things down, an urge that she´s had ever since she was five years old and her mother gave her a writing pad, where she could write her thoughts instead of being so whiny. She writes that her notebooks rarely describes how things actually are, but how it feels for her. And I think that´s a quality that is there in all her articles, she expresses a feeling about her subjects that makes her texts so much more informative than they would have been had she just been interested in the facts. She manages to put the spirit of the time into words. She captures atmosphere.

Highly recommended. So why haven´t I read them all? Perhaps I will. What I definately will do, right now, is put one of her novels on my to-read-list.

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