Joan Didion - Quotes

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To free us from the expectations of others, to give us back to ourselves - there lies the great, singular power of self-respect.

To free us from the expectations of others, to give us back to ourselves - there lies the great, singular power of self-respect.

I have always wanted a swimming pool and never had one. ---->>>

Writing nonfiction is more like sculpture, a matter of shaping the research into the finished thing. Novels are like paintings, specifically watercolors. Every stroke you put down you have to go with. Of course you can rewrite, but the original strokes are still there in the texture of the thing. ---->>>

Self-respect is a question of recognizing that anything worth having has a price. ---->>>

Life changes fast. Life changes in the instant. You sit down to dinner and life as you know it ends. ---->>>

Of course great hotels have always been social ideas, flawless mirrors to the particular societies they service. ---->>>

Late afternoon on the West Coast ends with the sky doing all its brilliant stuff. ---->>>

You aren't sure if you're making the right decision - about anything, ever. ---->>>

A place belongs forever to whoever claims it hardest, remembers it most obsessively, wrenches it from itself, shapes it, renders it, loves it so radically that he remakes it in his own image. ---->>>

I think we are well advised to keep on nodding terms with the people we used to be, whether we find them attractive company or not. Otherwise they turn up unannounced and surprise us, come hammering on the mind's door at 4 A.M. of a bad night and demand to know who deserted them, who betrayed them, who is going to make amends. ---->>>

Life changes in the instant. The ordinary instant. ---->>>

Was it only by dreaming or writing that I could find out what I thought?

Was it only by dreaming or writing that I could find out what I thought?

You have to pick the places you don't walk away from. ---->>>

The willingness to accept responsibility for one's own life is the source from which self-respect springs. ---->>>

We forget all too soon the things we thought we could never forget. ---->>>

Grammar is a piano I play by ear. All I know about grammar is its power.

Grammar is a piano I play by ear. All I know about grammar is its power.

I write entirely to find out what I'm thinking, what I'm looking at, what I see and what it means. What I want and what I fear. ---->>>

Novels are like paintings, specifically watercolors. Every stroke you put down you have to go with. Of course you can rewrite, but the original strokes are still there in the texture of the thing. ---->>>

I don't think anybody feels like they're a good parent. Or if people think they're good parents, they ought to think again. ---->>>

I no longer want reminders of what was, what got broken, what got lost, what got wasted. ---->>>

One of the things that happens to people in grief is they secretly think they're crazy, because they realize they are thinking things that don't make sense. ---->>>

My only advantage as a reporter is that I am so physically small, so temperamentally unobtrusive, and so neurotically inarticulate that people tend to forget that my presence runs counter to their best interests.

My only advantage as a reporter is that I am so physically small, so temperamentally unobtrusive, and so neurotically inarticulate that people tend to forget that my presence runs counter to their best interests.

You had to feel the swell change. You had to go with the change. He told me that. No eye is on the sparrow but he did tell me that. ---->>>

There's a general impulse to distract the grieving person - as if you could. ---->>>

We tell ourselves stories in order to live. ---->>>

Nothing I read about grief seemed to exactly express the craziness of it; which was the interesting aspect of it to me - how really tenuous our sanity is. ---->>>

I'm not very interested in people. I recognize it in myself - there is a basic indifference toward people. ---->>>

I'm totally in control of this tiny, tiny world right there at the typewriter. ---->>>

The minute you start putting words on paper you're eliminating possibilities. ---->>>

We look for the sermon in the suicide, for the social or moral lesson in the murder of five. We interpret what we see, select the most workable of the multiple choices. ---->>>

I have a theatrical temperament. I'm not interested in the middle road - maybe because everyone's on it. Rationality, reasonableness bewilder me. ---->>>

I'm not sure I have the physical strength to undertake a novel. ---->>>

Once in a while, when I first started to write pieces, I would try to write to a reader other than myself. I always failed. I would freeze up. ---->>>

We all survive more than we think we can. ---->>>

When we start deceiving ourselves into thinking not that we want something... but that it is a moral imperative that we have it, that is when we join the fashionable madmen. ---->>>

I never had much interest in being a child. As a way of being it seemed flat, failed to engage. ---->>>

We imagine things - that we wouldn't be able to survive, but in fact, we do survive. We have no choice, so we do it. ---->>>

Ask anyone committed to Marxist analysis how many angels dance on the head of a pin, and you will be asked in return to never mind the angels, tell me who controls the production of pins. ---->>>

Quite often you want to tell somebody your dream, your nightmare. Well, nobody wants to hear about someone else's dream, good or bad; nobody wants to walk around with it. The writer is always tricking the reader into listening to the dream. ---->>>

The impulse to write things down is a peculiarly compulsive one, inexplicable to those who do not share it, useful only accidentally, only secondarily, in the way that any compulsion tries to justify itself. ---->>>

We live entirely, especially if we are writers, by the imposition of a narrative line upon disparate images, by the 'ideas' with which we have learned to freeze the shifting phantasmagoria which is our actual experience. ---->>>

Yes, but another writer I read in high school who just knocked me out was Theodore Dreiser. I read An American Tragedy all in one weekend and couldn't put it down - I locked myself in my room. Now that was antithetical to every other book I was reading at the time because Dreiser really had no style, but it was powerful. ---->>>

I went on a book tour immediately after 9/11. 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.

I went on a book tour immediately after 9/11. 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.

When I was in fact a child, six and seven and eight years old, I was utterly baffled by the enthusiasm with which my cousin Brenda, a year and a half younger, accepted her mother's definition of her as someone who needed to go to bed at six-thirty and finish every bite of three vegetables, one of them yellow, with every meal. ---->>>

I never had faith that the answers to human problems lay in anything that could be called political. I thought the answers, if there were answers, lay someplace in man's soul. ---->>>

It took me a couple of years after I got out of Berkeley before I dared to start writing. That academic mind-set - which was kind of shallow in my case anyway - had begun to fade. ---->>>

What's so hard about that first sentence is that you're stuck with it. Everything else is going to flow out of that sentence. And by the time you've laid down the first two sentences, your options are all gone. ---->>>

When I went to San Francisco in that cold late spring of 1967, I did not even know what I wanted to find out, and so I just stayed around a while and made a few friends. ---->>>

A lot of the stories I was brought up on had to do with extreme actions - leaving everything behind, crossing the trackless wastes, and in those stories the people who stayed behind and had their settled ways - those people were not the people who got the prize. The prize was California. ---->>>

To make an omelette, you need not only those broken eggs but someone 'oppressed' to beat them: every revolutionist is presumed to understand that, and also every woman, which either does or does not make 51 percent of the population of the United States a potentially revolutionary class. ---->>>

The clothes chosen for me as a child had a strong element of the Pre-Raphaelite, muted greens and ivories, dusty rose, what seems in retrospect an eccentric amount of black. ---->>>

The writer is always tricking the reader into listening to their dream. ---->>>

I don't lead a writer's life. And I think that can be a source of suspicion and irritation to some people. ---->>>

Hemingway was really early. I probably started reading him when I was just eleven or twelve. There was just something magnetic to me in the arrangement of those sentences. Because they were so simple - or rather they appeared to be so simple, but they weren't. ---->>>

Strength is one of those things you're supposed to have. You don't feel that you have it at the time you're going through it. ---->>>

Memories are what you no longer want to remember. ---->>>

It kills me when people talk about California hedonism. Anybody who talks about California hedonism has never spent a Christmas in Sacramento. ---->>>

Writers are always selling somebody out. ---->>>

I lead a very conventional life. ---->>>

The apparent ease of California life is an illusion, and those who believe the illusion real live here in only the most temporary way. ---->>>

I could talk more directly in a nonfiction voice than I could in fiction. ---->>>

I don't really get things very... intuitively. I mean, I don't immediately understand things. The only way I really get it is by writing it down. ---->>>

I hadn't thought that I was generally a pack rat, but it turns out I am. ---->>>

I was no longer, if I had ever been, afraid to die: I was now afraid not to die. ---->>>

I was raised an Episcopalian. And I did not and I don't believe that anyone is looking out for me personally. ---->>>

It was clear, for example, in 1988 that the political process had already become perilously remote from the electorate it was meant to represent. ---->>>

Style is character. ---->>>

The fancy that extraterrestrial life is by definition of a higher order than our own is one that soothes all children, and many writers. ---->>>

To believe in 'the greater good' is to operate, necessarily, in a certain ethical suspension. ---->>>

You can throw a novel into focus with one overheard line. ---->>>

I start a book and I want to make it perfect, want it to turn every color, want it to be the world. Ten pages in, I've already blown it, limited it, made it less, marred it. That's very discouraging. I hate the book at that point. ---->>>

A pool is water, made available and useful, and is, as such, infinitely soothing to the western eye. ---->>>

Call me the author. ---->>>

I am always writing to myself. ---->>>

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. ---->>>

Nothing is critic-proof. ---->>>

The arrangement of the words matters, and the arrangement you want can be found in the picture in your mind. The picture dictates the arrangement. The picture dictates whether this will be a sentence with or without clauses, a sentence that ends hard or a dying-fall sentence, long or short, active or passive. ---->>>

When I'm working on a book, I constantly retype my own sentences. Every day I go back to page one and just retype what I have. It gets me into a rhythm. ---->>>

Americans are uneasy with their possessions, guilty about power, all of which is difficult for Europeans to perceive because they are themselves so truly materialistic, so versed in the uses of power. ---->>>

My mother 'gave teas' the way other mothers breathed. Her own mother 'gave teas.' All of their friends 'gave teas,' each involving butter cookies extruded from a metal press and pastel bonbons ordered from See's. ---->>>

To those of us who remained committed mainly to the exploration of moral distinctions and ambiguities, the feminist analysis may have seemed a particularly narrow and cracked determinism. ---->>>

In many ways, writing is the act of saying 'I,' of imposing oneself upon other people, of saying, 'Listen to me, see it my way, change your mind.' It's an aggressive, even a hostile act. ---->>>

New York was no mere city. It was instead an infinitely romantic notion, the mysterious nexus of all love and money and power, the shining and perishable dream itself. ---->>>

I can remember, when I was in college, irritating deeply somebody I was going out with, because he would ask me what I was thinking and I would say I was thinking nothing. And it was true. ---->>>

I couldn't give away my husband's shoes. I could give away other things, but the shoes - I don't know what it was about the shoes, but a lot of people have mentioned to me that shoes took on more meaning than we generally think they do... their attachment to the ground, I don't know - but that did have a real resonance for me. ---->>>

In Brentwood we had a big safe-deposit box to put manuscripts in if we left town during fire season. It was such a big box that we never bothered to clean it out. ---->>>

Not many people were speaking truth to power in the '80s. I had a really good time doing it - I found it gratifying. It was a joy to have an opportunity to say what you believed. It's challenging to do it in fiction, but I liked writing the novels. I liked writing 'Democracy' particularly. ---->>>

The West begins where the average annual rainfall drops below twenty inches. Water is important to people who do not have it, and the same is true of control. ---->>>

Was there ever in anyone's life span a point free in time, devoid of memory, a night when choice was any more than the sum of all the choices gone before? ---->>>

I wrote stories from the time I was a little girl, but I didn't want to be a writer. I wanted to be an actress. I didn't realize then that it's the same impulse. It's make-believe. It's performance. ---->>>

I've never been keen on open adoption. It doesn't seem to solve the main problem with adoption, which is that somebody feels she was abandoned by someone else. ---->>>

I have never started a novel - I mean except the first, when I was starting a novel just to start a novel - I've never written one without rereading Victory. It opens up the possibilities of a novel. It makes it seem worth doing. ---->>>

My own fantasies of what life would be like at 24 tended to the more spectacular. ---->>>

Not much about California, on its own preferred terms, has encouraged its children to see themselves as connected to one another. ---->>>

Of course, you always think about how it will be read. I always aim for a reading in one sitting. ---->>>

I do have a strong sense of an order in the universe. ---->>>

I never think people are too careful with me. ---->>>

The truth is, it's easier for me to write than talk... to express the state I'm in at any time. ---->>>

All of these things we do without children, and suddenly we don't do them anymore, and it comes home to us in a real way, that it's very different to have the responsibility of a child. ---->>>

Although a novel takes place in the larger world, there's always some drive in it that is entirely personal - even if you don't know it while you're doing it. ---->>>

Before I'd written movies, I never could do big set-piece scenes with a lot of different speakers - when you've got twelve people around a dinner table talking at cross purposes. I had always been impressed by other people's ability to do that. ---->>>

I lead a very conventional life. I don't lead a writer's life. And I think that can be a source of suspicion and irritation to some people. This was more true when I was living in California, when I didn't lead a writer's life at all. ---->>>

Nonfiction is more personal for me. It's more personal in that it's more direct, and actually it's always been more direct, even when I first started doing pieces. ---->>>

Once I get over maybe a hundred pages, I won't go back to page one, but I might go back to page fifty-five, or twenty, even. But then every once in a while I feel the need to go to page one again and start rewriting. ---->>>

Writing fiction is for me a fraught business, an occasion of daily dread for at least the first half of the novel, and sometimes all the way through. The work process is totally different from writing nonfiction. You have to sit down every day and make it up. ---->>>

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. Gradually, gradually you gain that confidence. ---->>>

Biography

Nationality: American
Born: 12-05, 1934
Birthplace:
Die:
Occupation: Author
Website:

Joan Didion (born December 5, 1934) is an American author best known for her novels and her literary journalism. Her novels and essays explore the disintegration of American morals and cultural chaos, where the overriding theme is individual and social fragmentation. A sense of anxiety or dread permeates much of her work (wikipedia)