Monday, February 28, 2011

Five best deathless accounts of mourning

Adam Haslett is the author of You Are Not A Stranger Here, a short story collection, which was a finalist for a Pulitzer Prize and a National Book Award, and won the PEN/Winship Award. His work has appeared in The New Yorker, The Nation, Zoetrope, and Best American Short Stories as well as National Public Radio’s Selected Shorts.

His debut novel Union Atlantic was published last year.

For the Wall Street Journal, he named a five best list of novelists on grief. One book on the list:
The Year of Magical Thinking
by Joan Didion (2005)

This gimlet-eyed memoir is Joan Didion's meticulous chronicle of the harrowing year following the death of her husband of 40 years, the writer John Gregory Dunne, who died of a heart attack at their dinner table. They had never been apart more than a week. The shock and confusion leaves Didion's memory scrambled and her once reliable logic undone. Returning from the hospital, she can't even remember her own address. "The Year of Magical Thinking," which won the National Book Award in 2005, traces this aftermath with Didion's characteristic precision and lack of sentiment. She muses on the mourners who remained at the house "even after I had gone into the bedroom (our bedroom, the one in which there still lay on a sofa a faded terrycloth XL robe bought in the 1970s at Richard Carroll in Beverly Hills) and shut the door." No choice of word or detail goes unexamined, from the science of cardiology to the last page her husband read—all of it is sifted for an answer that no research can provide: What are you supposed to do when the most important person in your life vanishes?
Read about another entry on the list.

The Year of Magical Thinking is one of Douglas Kennedy's top ten books about grief and one of Norris Church Mailer's five best memoirs.

Visit Adam Haslett's website.

The Page 69 Test: Union Atlantic.

--Marshal Zeringue