The pangs of loving and leaving a city

I chanced upon a post about Joan Didion’s ‘Goodbye to all that’ on DailyLit and it got me curious enough to get my hands on a copy of Didion’s classic essay.

Joan Didion

In Goodbye to all that, Joan dives into the narrative with hilarious observations, witty remarks and also painful truths. The point she is trying to make is this — the throbbing sense of disillusionment and resignation that came along with her eight-year stay in New York. But the best part is the purple prose doesn’t stay in New York. It travels far and wide, making itself relevant in any life-altering city, so that reader can easily put herself into Didion’s shoes and understand her pangs.

She asks the question ‘…was anyone so young?’ and herself supplies the response: “I am here to tell you that someone was.” This is the kind of rhetoric commentary that one can expect in the essay.

She talks of personal calamities that unfold in herself with literary perfection. Sample this:

I hurt the people I cared about, and insulted those I did not. I cut myself off from the one person who was closer to me than any other. I cried until I was not even aware when I was crying and when I was not, cried in elevators and in taxis and in Chinese laundries, and when I went to the doctor he said only that I seemed to be depressed, and should see a “specialist.” He wrote down a psychiatrist’s name and address for me, but I did not go.

Or the way she brings two or more points of view together with no inhibitions. From talking about how she was “in love with the city”, she segues the narrative to when she remembered “walking across Sixty-second Street … I stopped at Lexington Avenue and bought a peach and stood on the corner eating it and knew that I had come out of the West and reached the mirage,” her writing is so seamless her passing fascination with New York is relevant throughout.

The essay was part of the 1967 collection of essays Slouching towards Bethlehem, which is next on my reading list, the same volume that gave us the insightful essay On keeping a notebook.

If you have fallen madly in love with a city, and then fallen out of it to the point of being disillusioned this is a compulsory read.

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For those interested, you can read Joan Didion’s enlightening works here.

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