Joan Didion: sincerity and grief. Article by Carmela García Prieto

I am a bit ashamed to admit that I did not meet her in her books. Was traveling to Fuerteventura, because I had been recommended to see a documentary, ‘The center will yield’. For more than half the flight, concentrating on the tiny screen of my phone, I drank the story of Joan Didion with my eyes. I was very impressed by that soft voice, those bony hands and those shoulders that, thin and thin, carried more weight than anyone should ever bear.

When we landed, I unsuccessfully searched the airport kiosk. Now that he had met her, he had to read it. I was not lucky. With urgency, I read an article of yours on the internet. Old one from the ‘New Yorker’ on Hemingway’s last words. He wanted more, he wanted to meet her.

In Corralejo there were not many bookstores yet. My English friend who sold second-hand books in his little place knew ‘of course’ who was didion but he didn’t think he had anything of his. ‘If I had any I would lend them to you, but not sale. She’s the cleverest one ‘. The next day, the first day at the beach, under a bright sun, my father took me to Puerto del Rosario, to the Tagoror bookstore. I would have taken them all but they only had ‘The Year of Magical Thinking’ and ‘As the game comes on’.

It was a wonderful summer. I went to the beach every day with Joan and the way she cleaned her wounds with ink fascinated me. While I was reading it, that prose — I think, after having read it in English, that Javier Calvo brought it very well into Spanish — enveloped my days. Everything that happened to me and what had happened to me and what could happen to me, was then narrated in my head trying to imitate the voice of the American. There I started a kind of diaries that I still write almost every day — I’m already in the room — and I discovered the therapeutic ability to describe the details that do not seem important in the catastrophe. Our eyes do not stop seeing and someone may have died but that lamp is still blue, like sadness, like literature. Reading it, I seemed to understand how those bare shoulders endured so much sadness: they rested when they wrote and that is why I could not stop writing.

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I have been sad many times again, but now I always write. Joan Didion’s texts catch sadness and they cage it up to make it elegant. They expose it, they exploit it. There will not be —or I will not admit, because I already belong to Didion like someone from Barça— a better narrator of sadness, happiness, or reality.

Right in the middle of his latest book ‘What I want to say’ and in the middle of Christmas and in the middle of this pandemic, which will always be my favorite writer, abandons me. I continue reading it with a little more sorrow, as if I had known her and I will always be grateful and proud as if it had been her in person who taught me to be sincere every time I write.

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