Blue Nights

Joan Didion

A few months ago I saw a reference to Didion’s essay “Goodbye to All That” and read it again and remembered that I still hadn’t read this semi-follow-up to The Year of Magical Thinking about her daughter Quintana’s death. While the first book is primarily about grief, this one is focused more on mortality, and, more specifically, Didion facing hers without her daughter. It’s a much sadder book to me, especially the time Didion spends documenting her increasing frailty and difficulty with writing. It’s not too hard to imagine that this could be her last book.

I was happy to read this book when I did, as the title refers to the twilights that happen around the summer solstice, the way they “turn long and blue.” I would read this book on the train home in the evening and then sit outside in the extended dusk.

The French called this time of day “l’heure bleue.” To the English it was “the gloaming.” The very word “gloaming” reverberates, echoes — the gloaming, the glimmer, the glitter, the glisten, the glamour — carrying in its consonants the images of houses shuttering, gardens darkening, grass-lined rivers slipping through the shadows. During the blue nights you think the day will never come.