Back on the Elizabeth Gilbert train.
Hitting the wall on marriage memoirs.

Re-reading nonfiction.

Our discussion last week about Roger Rosenblatt's memoir Making Toast put me in the mood, for whatever reason, to re-read Joan Didion's memoir The Year of Magical Thinking. So I did.

Is it strange that I find a book about the year after the death of a woman's husband, and a year she spent largely watching her daughter struggle with very serious health challenges, to be comfort reading? I have read it three times now, and each time I find something new, or I appreciate it for a new reason. This time through, this is the part that made me break down first (this book makes me weepy in numerous spots):

"As a writer, even as a child, long before what I wrote began to be published, I developed a sense that meaning itself was resident in the rhythms of words and sentences and paragraphs, a technique for withholding whatever it was I thought or believed behind an increasingly impenetrable polish. The way I write is who I am, or have become, yet this is a case in which I wish I had instead of words and their rhythms a cutting room, equipped with an Avid, a digital editing system on which I could touch a key and collapse the sequence of time, show you simultaneously all the frames of memory that come to me now, let you pick the takes, the marginally different expressions, the variant readings of the same lines. This is a case in which I need more than words to find the meaning. This is a case in which I need whatever it is I think or believe to be penetrable, if only for myself." (pp. 7-8.)

The part that made me weepy was thinking of a wordsmith (a somewhat controlling wordsmith, by the sound of it) being in a place beyond words. The part that made me pause was how you can get in that paragraph and lie down for a while--it has so many things to say about grief, and understanding, and writing, and relationships. Who in any kind of relationship hasn't pondered all the "variant readings of the same lines"? It's an incredible paragraph.

I know I will re-read this book again. I was thinking about re-reading nonfiction this morning, and wondering if memoirs are easier to re-read because they exist somewhere between the hazy borders of truth and fiction more so than other nonfiction narratives. I will have to think about what NF titles I have re-read in the past, and what they were. My suspicion is that I re-read more memoirs than I do anything else. My other thought is that I will have to dig up my Joan Didion omnibus that I have around here somewhere and start sprinkling some of her essays in my daily reading. Now I'm curious to see how she makes herself impenetrable.