Quotes from Blue Nights

Joan Didion ·  208 pages

Rating: (19.2K votes)


“Do not whine... Do not complain. Work harder. Spend more time alone.”
― Joan Didion, quote from Blue Nights


“Memory fades, memory adjusts, memory conforms to what we think we remember.”
― Joan Didion, quote from Blue Nights


“You have your wonderful memories," people said later, as if memories were solace. Memories are not. Memories are by definition of times past, things gone. Memories are the Westlake uniforms in the closet, the faded and cracked photographs, the invitations to the weddings of the people who are no longer married, the mass cards from the funerals of the people whose faces you no longer remember. Memories are what you no longer want to remember.”
― Joan Didion, quote from Blue Nights


“In theory momentos serve to bring back the moment. In fact they serve only to make clear how inadequately I appreciated the moment when it was here. How inadequately I appreciated the moment when it was here is something else I could never afford to see.”
― Joan Didion, quote from Blue Nights


“Vanish.
Pass into nothingness: the Keats line that frightened her.
Fade as the blue nights fade, go as the brightness goes.
Go back into the blue.
I myself placed her ashes in the wall.
I myself saw the cathedral doors locked at six.
I know what it is I am now experiencing.
I know what the frailty is, I know what the fear is.
The fear is not for what is lost.
What is lost is already in the wall.
What is lost is already behind the locked doors.
The fear is for what is still to be lost.
You may see nothing still to be lost.
Yet there is no day in her life on which I do not see her.”
― Joan Didion, quote from Blue Nights



“I know what the fear is.
The fear is not for what is lost.
What is lost is already in the wall.
What is lost is already behind the locked doors.
The fear is for what is still to be lost.”
― Joan Didion, quote from Blue Nights


“In fact I no longer value this kind of memento.
I no longer want reminders of what was, what got broken, what got lost, what got wasted.
There was a period, a long period, dating from my childhood until quite recently, when I thought I did.
A period during which I believed that I could keep people fully present, keep them with me, by preserving their mementos, their "things," their totems.”
― Joan Didion, quote from Blue Nights


“The fear is for what is still to be lost.”
― Joan Didion, quote from Blue Nights


“Let me just be in the ground.
Let me just be in the ground and go to sleep.”
― Joan Didion, quote from Blue Nights


“I hear a new tone when acquaintances ask how I am, a tone I have not before noticed and find increasing distressing, even humiliating: these acquaintances seem as they ask impatient, half concerned, half querulous, as if no longer interested in the answer.
As if all too aware that the answer will be a complaint.
I determine to speak, if asked how I am, only positively.
I frame the cheerful response.
What I believe to be the cheerful response as I frame it emerges, as I hear it, more in the nature of a whine.
Do not whine, I write on an index card. Do not complain. Work harder. Spend more time alone.”
― Joan Didion, quote from Blue Nights



“When I began writing these pages I believed their subject to be children, the ones we have and the ones we wish we had, the ways in which we depend on our children to depend on us, the ways in which we encourage them to remain children, the ways in which they remain more unknown to us than they do to their more casual acquaintances; the ways in which we remain equally opaque to them.”
― Joan Didion, quote from Blue Nights


“Can you evade the dying of the brightness?
Or do you evade only its warning?
Where are you left if you miss the message the blue nights bring?”
― Joan Didion, quote from Blue Nights


“We still counted happiness and health and love and luck and beautiful children as "ordinary blessings.”
― Joan Didion, quote from Blue Nights


“I tell you this true story just to prove that I can. That my frailty has not yet reached a point at which I can no longer tell a true story.”
― Joan Didion, quote from Blue Nights


“Alcohol has its own well-know defects as a medication for depression but no one has ever suggested - ask any doctor - that it is not the most effective anti-anxiety agent yet known.”
― Joan Didion, quote from Blue Nights



“I find many mass cards from the funerals of people whose faces I no longer remember. In theory these mementos serve to bring back the moment. In fact they serve only to make clear how inadequately I appreciated the moment when it was here. How inadequately I appreciated the moment when it was here is something else I could never afford to see.”
― Joan Didion, quote from Blue Nights


“I do not know many people who think they have succeeded as parents. Those who do tend to cite the markers that indicate (their own) status in the world: the Stanford degree....Those of us less inclined to compliment ourselves on our parenting skills, in other words most of us, recite rosaries of our failures, our neglects, our derelictions and delinquencies.”
― Joan Didion, quote from Blue Nights


“Adoption, I was to learn although not immediately, is hard to get right.
As a concept, even what was then its most widely approved narrative carried bad news: if someone "chose" you, what does that tell you?
Doesn't it tell you that you were available to be "chosen"?
Doesn't it tell you, in the end, that there are only two people in the world?
The ones who "chose" you?
And the other who didn't?
Are we beginning to see how the word "abandonment" might enter the picture? Might we not make efforts to avoid such abandonment? Might not such efforts be characterized as "frantic"? Do we want to ask ourselves what follows? Do we need to ask ourselves what words come next to mind? Isn't one of those words "fear"? Isn't another of those words "anxiety"?”
― Joan Didion, quote from Blue Nights


“I promised myself that I would maintain momentum.
"Maintain momentum" was the imperative that echoed all the way downtown.
In fact I had no idea what would happen if I lost it.
In fact I had no idea what it was.”
― Joan Didion, quote from Blue Nights


“I offer you a second way of approaching the moment where everything in your life just stops, this one from the actor Robert Duvall: "I exist very nicely between the words 'action' and 'cut.'"
And even a third way: "It doesn't present as pain," I once heard an oncological surgeon say of cancer.”
― Joan Didion, quote from Blue Nights



“When we talk about mortality we are talking about our children.”
― Joan Didion, quote from Blue Nights


“Instead, ourselves the beneficiaries of this kind of benign neglect, we now measure success as the extent to which we manage to keep our children monitored, tethered, tied to us.”
― Joan Didion, quote from Blue Nights


“I liked it all, but most of all I liked the fact that although the play was entirely focused on Quintana there were, five evenings and two afternoons a week, these ninety full minutes, the run time of the play, during which she did not need to be dead.
During which the question remained open.
During which the denouement had yet to play out.
During which the last scene played did not necessarily need to be played in the ICU overlooking the East River.
During which the bells would not necessarily sound and the doors would not necessarily be locked at six.
During which the last dialogue heard did not necessarily need to concern the vent.
Like when someone dies, don't dwell on it.”
― Joan Didion, quote from Blue Nights


“When we lose that sense of the possible we lose it fast.”
― Joan Didion, quote from Blue Nights


“Once she was born, I was never not afraid.”
― Joan Didion, quote from Blue Nights



“When we lose that sense of the possible we lose it fast.
One day we are absorbed by dressing well, following the news, keeping up, coping, what we might call staying alive; the next day we are not.”
― Joan Didion, quote from Blue Nights


“...the child trying not to appear as a child, of the strenuousness with which she tried to present the face of a convincing adult.”
― Joan Didion, quote from Blue Nights


“A doctor to whom I occasionally talk suggest that I have made an inadequate adjustment to aging.
Wrong, I want to say.
In fact I have made no adjustment whatsoever to aging.
In fact I had lived my entire life to date without seriously believing that I would age.”
― Joan Didion, quote from Blue Nights


“The objects for which there is no satisfactory resolution… In theory, these mementos serve to bring back the moment. In fact they serve only to make clear how inadequately I appreciated the moment when it was here.”
― Joan Didion, quote from Blue Nights


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About the author

Joan Didion
Born place: in Sacramento, California, The United States
Born date December 5, 1934
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