In Blue Nights, Joan Didion describes exchanging her California driver’s license for a New York license. She’s lived in New York for nearly twenty years, but the exchange represents loss, and her life is already overflowing with too much loss. Too much loss to bear.
The suburban house in Brentwood, with pool and gardens: gone. The daughter who at age five called Twentieth Century Fox to ask what she needed to do to be a star: gone. The beloved husband, perfect partner: gone. Even the children of friends, and friends themselves: gone.
A blurb from John Banville on the back cover notes, “Didion comes fully to realize, and to face squarely, the dismaying fact that against life’s worst onslaughts nothing avails, not even art; especially not art.”
Didion continues to look for hope, for the possible. She grasps at that which grounds her, that which keeps her moving forward, or at least keeps her standing up, from the challenge of physical therapy after an illness to the production of a new play.
She writes, “the fear is not for what is lost…. The fear is for what is still to be lost.” Giving up the California license means giving up one more piece of herself.
In Blue Nights, Didion’s daughter and her husband and all those who are gone, even Didion herself, live on. She sees them still.
When she can see them no longer, all will – truly and finally – be lost. The blue nights of summer will come to an end and the winter darkness descend.