The character created by Joan Didion that defines the writer herself | Culture


There is one character out of all the not too many characters that Joan Didion created, the novelist Joan Didion, as powerful and brave as the chronicler who will house her forever. There is a character, someone named Maria Wyeth, who will forever contain her rage, the rage of someone who feels bound by what she loves, even when she has lost it, but who prefers to feel tied and guilty to free and lost — not in vain always She regretted having picked up the phone from the doctor who called her home when Quintana, the baby she adopted, was born, because she believed that if she had not done so, her daughter would still be alive.

That character, Wyeth, will forever also contain her deep loneliness, the loneliness of the shy girl and the even more shy adolescent who did nothing but type Ernest Hemingway’s stories on her own typewriter, feeling like a writer without quite believing it. . “I didn’t feel like a writer until I published my first book,” she said, despite having been writing since she was five years old, first in that blue notebook that she still kept, like someone who keeps an object from another world, a world in which everything was still possible. And it will do so because whenever a copy of As the game comes (Random House Literature), the novel that in turn contains that character, Maria will be driving away, because that’s what she does. Maria is an actress and is surrounded by men who want something from her, and all she wants is to be alone, somewhere else. And that’s why she drives, goes far, until she remembers that she has a life, and then she stops, looks for a booth, calls the set and someone asks where she is, or calls her husband and it is he who asks where she is and she always He lies, he always says he is on the way, and sometimes he is hours away from the place in question, and it does not matter because he always comes back.

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We tell ourselves stories in order to live, Didion herself once wrote in one of the essays in The white album. Almost immediately she admitted, in that same article, that there was a time when she began to question all those stories that she had told herself. It is no coincidence that this time corresponds to the time when he created Maria Wyeth. By then everything had become, completely, he remembered in the article, fragmentary. Life was a pile of bits of things. Something broken that her status as a writer kept trying to rebuild, over and over again, without success. “I was supposed to follow a script, the problem was that I had lost it,” he wrote.

Joan Didion, in Berkeley, California, in 1981.
Joan Didion, in Berkeley, California, in 1981.Janet Fries (Getty Images)

Bumping into that girl, an actress, he remembered when talking about how he shaped the character, at the Riviera Hotel in Las Vegas, someone who, he said, “seemed to be doing a humiliating job,” and telling himself that, in that world made of fragments from other worlds, she was not so different from that girl, no one was, actually, she started the novel. The novel was his first novel written in that cutting style, so fascinatingly telegraphic, made of small narrative capsules that function as polaroids and it contains the spirit of that generation of women who did everything possible not to be what was expected of them but everything else. And that he did.

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George Holan

George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.

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