When winter approaches, when sunlight recedes earlier far on the horizon, it gives us more slices of tranquility to think, or to read. For me it is usually about my all-time favorite, Joan Didion’s ‘Goodbye to All That’. It tells of her innocent fear, shadowed by the strong conviction about city survival.
The Incarnation of Beauty and Intelligence
If you think of Joan Didion as a beautiful Vogue editor back in 1956’s New York－her chic jumper tucked into her high-waisted trouser; her long bob elegantly lays on her shoulders－you probably see her more as a modern fashion icon. But underneath her beauty and sense of aesthetics, the charm in her knowledge of words is timeless and universal. Whenever and wherever, you are moved by how her mind interweaves with her city－once California, then New York, and back to California.
‘Goodbye to All That’
In ‘Goodbye to All That’, Didion was the young woman daring not to call the hotel desk to turn off the air-con because she did not know how much to tip. She was the young woman never calling her father for money due to the insistence on ‘self-help’. Are not all of us ever like this? And when she finally left New York, or more specifically, let go of the tension that was once glamour, we readers feel equally relieved. Have not we all once left what we loved when part of it got sour, and we could no longer compromise? All in all, Didion’s pen charts what is beyond New York’s the brightest and the darkest. There is a ‘state in between’: a young determination that ‘I know that I would cost something sooner or later…but when you are twenty-two, or twenty-three, you figure that later you will have a high emotional balance, and be able to pay whatever it costs’*. There are more than one tomorrow.
If ‘Goodbye to All That’ sounds what you would like, you will be happy to see its ‘sequel’. In 2013, editor Sari Botton gathered a group of talented writers to make their modern versions of ‘Goodbye to All That’. 28 personal essays were compiled as an expression of their collective admiration towards Didion. The collection calls Goodbye to All That: Writers on Loving and Leaving New York. In this book you get to see various translations of human-place bond. Different from Didion’s candid tone of voice, some of them are sentimental, cynical, or, all of the above. My personal bias in this book is Hope Edelman‘s ‘You Are Here’. I love the coincidence she happened to move into the apartment, 24 Washington Square North, more than 10 years later she sat on the front steps of it, eating pizza with her friend but actually undergoing poignant mother-loss. And I love her farewell to New York, with a clarity of it not being a place for her daughters, and buried her own history gently and nostalgically.
Hello to Love towards Words
I knew Didion’s ‘Goodbye to All That’ and the collection, Goodbye to All That: Writers On Loving And Leaving New York 2 summers ago, where I named them ‘Literary Bibles of my 22’. And at my 24, I can be almost as straight as Didion’s voice saying that: they are gonna be Literary Bibles of my eternal life. Have a look at this, it will have you at hello!
*Didion, Joan. 2017. ‘Goodbye to All That.’ In Slouching towards Bethlehem, 225-238. Fourth Estate.
Header Image: Instagram: @cam_myy