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When Everything Changes

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When I ask her if this grief is different from what she has so carefully described in her book, she says, “It is and it isn’t. I recognize a lot of the things I’m going through. Like, I lose my temper a lot and I become unhinged and kind of hysterical. Like if someone calls to update their Rolodex.” She laughs. “I recognize little things like that as being part of the process, so they’re not quite as frightening. But on the other hand, it’s a whole different level of loss.” She stops and stares at the table again. “This is the part I don’t want to talk about.” She takes off her glasses, sets them down, and her eyes are flooded with tears. When she finally looks up, she says, “What I want to do as soon as I get through this . . . all of this . . . is basically be too busy. Take too much work. I figure that will get me through.”

Next week, Joan Didion will get on a plane and fly to Boston to begin a book tour that will take her through eleven cities and wind up in Toronto two days before Thanksgiving. She hasn’t traveled much in the past couple of years, and she is, in a way, looking forward to it. She’s hoping that maybe she will be able to finally figure out what her next book should be. “I went on a book tour immediately after 9/11,” she says. “I was due to leave the following Wednesday, so I just did. It was an amazing thing, because planes hadn’t been flying very many days and I got on this plane and went to San Francisco, and the minute that plane lifted above the clouds I felt this incredible sense of lightness. It was not only as if I was leaving the scene of a disaster, but maybe it hadn’t happened at all.”


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