Monday, January 23, 2006

The Year of Magical Thinking on the annual camping ordeal

Camping was...camping. It rained, the hard, driving kind of rain that would find it's way into any tent-weakness. It rained, on and off for a couple of days. Personally I didn't mind - it cooled everything down, the tents were dry and I had two books to read and the shawl-collared wrap from Sally Melville's Purl book to knit.

I bought Joan Didion's The Year of Magical Thinking at a terrific little bookshop at Jindabyne. Her austere pared-down sentences chronicle the year after the death of her husband of nearly forty years. It was odd reading a such a scrutiny of death and it's aftermath in a camp full of children and life. Next door to our site the Pymble Girls' Grammar rowing team started each morning at 6.30 with battle-cries and girl-chatter. I read about the small necessary rituals Didion performed to both contain her own grief-madness and keep the door between life and death wedged open should her husband be able to magically return. The kids complained about the rain. Didion read the proofs of her dead husband's last book. Alasdair and Helen canoed to an island in the lake without permission or sunscreen. Didion rode in a Cessna with two paramedics and her critically ill daughter, Quintana Roo. Quintana's shocking illness is part of this elegiac study. Didion is a frail survivor caught between two deaths with only the magic of her obsessive, meticulous and lyrical notetaking to float above 'the burning raft of grief'.


Bronwyn G said...

Beautiful story, Catherine. I never thought it would go to these depths. Read an extract of Magical Thinking and it passed me by.

Your camping trip sounds great. For how long did you go?

Cattyrox said...

Hi Bronwyn,
Camped for one week, but we stopped off one night, too, on the way up. There's a very interesting review of Magical Thinking - check it out if you want some further comments. I haven't read any of her late husband's work, but reading this book and then the review made me want to.