Tuesday, January 22, 2008

ad feminam

Put off by all the praise for Joan Didion's prose style, Barbara Grizzuti Harrison wrote an essay-length critique of Didion. It gets, shall we say, very personal. The piece was called "Only Disconnect" (1980) and begins in this hilarious way:

When I am asked why I do not find Joan Didion appealing, I am tempted to answer -- not entirely facetiously -- that my charity does not naturally extend itself to someone whose lavender love seats match exactly the potted orchids on her mantel, someone who has porcelain elephant end tables, someone who has chosen to burden her daughter with the name Quintana Roo; I am disinclined to find endearing a chronicler of the 1960s who is beset by migraines that can be triggered by her decorator's having pleated instead of gathered her new diningroom curtains. These, and other assorted facts -- such as the fact that Didion chose to buy the dress Linda Kasabian wore at the Manson trial at I. Magnin in Beverly Hills -- put me more in mind of a neurasthenic Cher than of a writer who has been called America's finest woman prose stylist.

And later in the essay, this:

Nothing matters, Didion writes. What one hears is, "Only what I have to tell you matters." And, for Didion, only surfaces matter.

I've made the entire essay available here.