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Posts Tagged ‘Joan Didion’

The California Room

July 23, 2013 | by

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The jury visits a gas station in February 1965 to examine a car similar to the one in which Gordon “Cork” Miller burned to death. Lucille Miller, with sheriff’s deputy Ken Kutch, stands at left. John Malmin for the Los Angeles Times.

Upstairs in the Norman Feldheym Library in San Bernardino County, California, there is a quiet room dedicated to local history. The California Room is large with a low ceiling and lavender-gray walls. It contains local history books, genealogy tomes, and metal shelves filed with black binders, each brimming with photocopies of old newspaper articles.

Among the black binders sleeps the story of Lucille Miller, tenderly filed by a squad of dedicated retirees. Her binder is so full that it barely closes. Papers stretch plastic side pockets, and crumpled white spills over the once clean, black edges. Some pages miss beginnings or endings, and often the print is so small and muddled that the words are almost impossible to read. Between the worn state of the photocopies and the old-style font, it is strange to think that these articles once spread through the local press with jittery contagion for almost five months.

Lucille Miller’s story is one of death, a love affair, and a pregnant woman on trial. Joan Didion dubbed it the quintessential “tabloid monument.” Didion was perhaps the first to discover the story, to filter through the newspapers’ fragmentary sensationalism and find the overarching meaning. But in its narrative precision, how perfectly the events align and the characters fit their roles, “Some Dreamers of the Golden Dream” creates a mirror where the tight world of words reflects an unraveled reality. And within this strange symmetry, there’s an awareness of two entities, a woman who lived and a character that served a story.

The tension between these women led me to San Bernardino and the California Room. It led me to green-tinged microfilm of the Sun-Telegram and finally to the Miller binder, probably the most complete paper rendering of Lucille Miller’s life and crime. I’m fascinated by that gray area where we translate a person into words, and I wanted to know what remained of Lucille. She came to represent a forgetful and forward-looking culture, but what happened to the woman and her paper life when the main story passed? Read More »

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Golden Books

February 20, 2013 | by

enhanced-buzz-9081-1361119638-7While we can’t pretend to have actually asked the question, “What if best-selling albums had been books instead?”, we can all agree that the answer, from British designer Christophe Gowans, is brilliant. (We’d suggest The White Album, but, well.)

 

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The NYRB Fiftieth Anniversary Kickoff, in Tweets

February 6, 2013 | by

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Chatterley Sex Advice, and Other News

January 30, 2013 | by

  • In today’s adaptation news, Campbell Scott will be helming Didion’s Book of Common Prayer.
  • Remember these words: sub-compact publishing. You are witnessing the future.
  • Not ready for the future? Here’s Virginia Woolf’s bread recipe!
  • Ten things not to say after sex, according to Lady Chatterley’s Lover.
  • Finnegans Wake is selling like gangbusters in China.
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    The Worst Best Coloring Book Ever

    January 29, 2013 | by

    For the literary child—or inner child— in your life!

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    Norman Mailer

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    Joan Didion

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    Gore Vidal

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    Joyce Carol Oates

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    James Baldwin

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    Meeting Joan Didion

    October 4, 2012 | by

    Each Sunday, we would walk down Lexington together, the conversation taking the tempo of our steps: slow, meditative, purposeful. She’d always be in immediate need of a coffee, so we would head for our café. The one on Seventy-something, a fifteen-minute walk from her place. We would never spend too much time in her apartment beforehand. I would go up to get her, maybe sit in her kitchen for five minutes while she got her things together, keys jangling, and we’d leave. I would try to take in the walls of books, visually inhaling the pillows collected over years and continents, and those curtains—thick buttery beige, like icing. Framed photographs from the seventies—the nuclear family—lining the bookcases, soaked in that sunny filter of the era, then sun-soaked again by the morning light.

    At the café, we’d speak of her writing, about what she was working on, what movies we’d each recently seen and if they were any good. If we’d spotted any celebrities downtown, we would share what they’d been wearing and she would tell me her dreams. We would sometimes order two scoops of vanilla ice cream to share, and she’d urge me to finish the last bite. If conversation lagged, I might tell her I felt a West Coast phase coming on.

    She would read my writing and tell me what was good and what wasn’t (she’d never say anything like she “saw great potential” in me—nothing like that, nothing that might threaten eyes to roll). She’d advise me as a professional equal and as a child, which is exactly how I would feel sitting across from her, two times her size and one-third her age, her books overstuffing my backpack.

    “You don’t think in terms of suddenly making it,” she would tell me, remembering when Play It as It Lays first came out. “You think you have some stable talent that will show no matter what you’re writing, and if it doesn’t seem to be getting across to the audience once, you can’t imagine that moment when it suddenly will.” I would nod. “Gradually,” she’d add, “gradually you gain that confidence.”

    She wouldn’t always be nice to me. She might be in a foul mood and take it out on me a bit, but then she would always be fair. That’s how I’d know she was taking me seriously. I would be aware then, I wouldn’t have to wait until I was older to recognize, that this acknowledgment, this leveling, was more valuable than anything else.

    Her secrets would be my secrets, and mine hers—in so much as people share their secrets. Keepers of private notebooks are a different breed altogether, she’d say knowingly, eyeing the stacks of journals overflowing my lap, lonely and resistant rearrangers of things, anxious malcontents, children afflicted apparently at birth with some presentiment of loss. I would shrug and scribble a note or two.

    I’d learn her way of being, how she took up space. How she liked her eggs, where she’d sniff after words and what that meant, which was her favorite linen dress. And I’d learn to sketch maps of her intellectual processes. I suppose she would learn mine as well. She had many friends, of course, so it wouldn’t be like I was giving her something to do. She would meet with me for some other reason, one that would never be entirely clear to me. Years later, I would still wonder.

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