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I started the new year by reading Joan Didion’s The Year of Magical Thinking, in which she unravels grief and mourning after her husband’s unexpected death, and her child’s experiences with sickness. Part of the reason I decided to read this book was that my best friends wanted to read it together, and because she had just passed away and I still hadn’t read anything by her, only admired her from afar or from what I heard in literary circles. In the past three years onslaught by COVID, the last thing I wanted to hear was that three extraordinary writers passed away one after the other, Joan Didion among them. As a fellow Sagittarius, I am pleased to know Didion got to celebrate her birthday before passing. Didion says in The Year of Magical Thinking, “I am a writer. Imagining what someone would say or do comes to me as naturally as breathing.”I imagine Didion is getting along with Babitz and hooks just fine, somewhere in a distant land.

There were many times I marked the pages of my thrifted copy of The Year of Magical Thinking with sad faces, scribbly underlines, and nonsense words trying to make sense of the sadness that filled me while she described the horrors she went through. There were also times that I maybe giggled, felt filled with hope, and felt her warmth radiating through the love her words spelled on the page for her family. While I am not the most knowledgeable source on Didion and her work, I found my first encounter with her writing to be absolutely breathtaking and The Year of Magical Thinking became one of my favorite books I am sure to revisit in the future.

Joan focuses a lot on the ordinary changing in an instant. In the case of The Year of Magical Thinking, the ordinary changes in the worst way. But I’d like to imagine she had an alternative; that the ordinary could change from happiness, and I’d like to think that she had moments like this, too.

According to Bustle, Didion wrote a piece about Nancy Reagan at the time Ronald Reagan was the governor of California, in which Mrs. Reagan responded defensively. I like to know that Didion didn’t fancy them either and that her humor was offensive toward politicians. You can read some more interesting facts about Didion here.

“Grief is different. Grief has no distance. Grief comes in waves, paroxysms, sudden apprehensions that weaken the knees and blind the eyes and obliterate the dailiness of life. Virtually everyone who has ever experienced grief mentions this phenomenon of ‘waves’.”

Joan Didion, although you were much more than a successful writer, you will be missed by old and new readers alike. I hope in heaven you have a pen in your hand, and you are reunited with your family. Thank you for teaching us the importance of loving through grief, in a time when grief seems to be all we have.

Sage Short

Coastal Carolina '22

Sage Short is an undergraduate English student and research fellow at Coastal Carolina University. In her free time, she enjoys writing, reading, and listening to Florence and the Machine.
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