http://www.catalystmagazine.net/component/content/article/43-/331-feasting-green-eat-local-challenge

Feasting Green: Eat Local Challenge (2007)

carterslowfood.jpg

For most Americans, food and oil-and we don’t mean edible oil-are inextricably linked. Look in your cupboard and fridge: Where did those cookies and avocados come from, and how did they get here?

Food often travels thousands of miles to reach the grocery store. By eating foods grown locally, we drastically reduce the amount of energy wasted in transport as well as support our local economy.

Salt Lakers Andrea and Michael Heidinger asked what might happen if they focused on a more regional diet. What if they challenged each other, and their friends, to “eat locally”?

So they sent out information to friends whom they thought might interested in such an experiment and invited them to a planning party. “We told them they could spread the word to others who might be interested, and-wow, it really spread! People are buzzing about it. They’re doing research and putting the information on the blog that was set up after the party,” says Michael.

From the blog you will learn, for instance, that, instead of buying exotic New Zealand lamb, you can find Utah’s own Morgan Valley Lamb at Emigration and Broadway Markets and all Harmon’s. Locally raised pork and beef are available. Aquarius Fish carries trout from Smithfield. Lehi Roller Mills produces quality flour and oats. Lots of area grocers sell mushrooms raised in Fillmore. The omega-3 eggs found at the 1800 South CostCo come from North Salt Lake. West Valley’s Winder Farms offers milk from area cows. Fabulous local cheeses are available, too, made by Rockhill Creamery, Drake Family Farms Goat Dairy and Beehive Cheese Company.

The idea of eating only local foods has popped up nationally, and many other cities have started similar programs. In Salt Lake City, the challenge officially begins on Saturday, August 18.  It is primarily a group of motivated individuals (many of whom did not know each other beforehand) who have dedicated themselves to making this experiment happen. Slow Food Utah, Wasatch Community Gardens and Liberty Heights Fresh have also been supportive of the effort.

Here’s how it works: You set your own guideline level, choosing to eat within  250 or 100 miles from home, for a day, a week or a month. You can decide to be a purist, eating only locally and cutting out even all additives and beverages that cannot be made locally such as olive oil, spices or coffee; or you can make exceptions for those foods that cannot be produced in the area.

Part of the fun in the challenge is researching local sources. You may find foods you didn’t know grew or were produced here.  “Who is growing and where is it going?” The answers to these questions may spark an even deeper interest in food, food quality and environmental sustainability.

As kickoff approaches, more information will be available, including resources for local food and recipes, on the blog created for the challenge (http://localfoodchallenge.blogspot. com); participants can share their experiences.

Why not use this opportunity to celebrate local bounty and community? There’s nothing like food to connect us to the world we live in.

Additional websites
slowfoodutah.org, utahsown.utah.gov, wasatchgardens.org, eatwild.org, foodsecurity.org, eatlocalchallenge.org, localvores.org

Recommended books:

“Omnivore’s Dilemma,” Michael Pollan
“Plenty,” Alisa Smith and James MacKinnon
“Coming Home to Eat,” Gary Paul Nabhan
“Animal, Vegetable, Miracle,” Barbara Kingsolver

http://www.catalystmagazine.net/component/content/article/81-/328-parenting-tiny-signers

Parenting: Tiny Signers (2007)

Beth Carter

carterbabysigning1.jpgA new phenomenon is sweeping the parenting world: Parents have been teaching their pre-verbal infants sign language in order to communicate before the child can speak. Although not entirely new-the parenting technique was developed in the late 80s- it has only been recently publicized. Parents often fall victim to these so-called parenting fads, but there seems to be something different about baby signing that suggests its staying power.

Joseph Garcia, who was inspired while working as an interpreter in the deaf community, founded the movement in 1987. He began to observe the communication between deaf parents and their hearing infants before the children could speak. Garcia’s program is called “Sign with your baby,” which advocates the teaching of American Sign Language (ASL) to normally developing, hearing infants, starting instruction at five to eight months old. Most infants do not speak until 12 to 18 months old and according to Garcia, this program’s goal is to help infants develop a means of communication before speech that allows them to demonstrate their needs and wants while reducing frustration and tantrums.carterbabysigning2.jpg

Around the same time, Drs. Linda Acredolo and Susan Goodwyn, both of UC Davis, investigated the effects of children who used signing as infants compared to those who did not and concluded that signing with children could give them intellectual advantages. The two schools of baby signing differ in that Garcia’s program emphasizes that babies be taught signs from an official sign language, such as American Sign Language (ASL), while Acredolo and Goodwyn believe it is best that parents and children develop their own signs. Both methods are said to promote better communication, bonding, less frustration and increased expressiveness.

Candice Mallicoat is the director of the business “Brilliant Bundles,” a baby-signing resource center that she and her husband run from their home in Bountiful. Brilliant Bundles sells e-courses and kits and provides some private instruction. As well as running her business, Candice is a mother currently teaching her child how to sign.

According to Candice, baby signing is an important tool for parenting because not only is it pleasurable for the family, but a child’s self-esteem is improved. Candice also mentioned benefits such as the effects of concurrent visual and audio stimulation, firing both sides of the brain and increasing IQ by 10-12%. An important aspect of baby signing is speaking the words as you sign them, to promote the child’s verbal center as well as dexterity.

Another advocate for signing with your child is Matt Stella, a Salt Lake City parent who along with his wife Jeni Indresano has been signing with his 15-month-old daughter, Paprika, since she was an infant. As a teacher, Candice described the process of teaching signing to an infant and to yourself as requiring a lot of patience. Matt, on the other hand, explained the process as not “taking any more time than talking.” Baby sign books that you can read to your child will help you learn the signs as you read. Matt did see reduced frustration, fewer tantrums and more communication, but was pleasantly surprised to find it “even more helpful in giving her a means to communicate just for the excitement and satisfaction of being able to communicate at all.” He also found that Paprika understands verbally more than she is able to sign.

For both Matt and Candice, the purpose of signing is to communicate and bond with their children, not to give the kids a competitive edge. And though both admit to signing’s fad status, Matt sees signing as an evolution in parenting, and Candice sees signing as a fad that is reaching parents who want to do things for the benefit of their children.

The good news is that these products are easily available to everyone. Matt’s family used books provided at the public library. Brilliant Bundles offers low-cost (under $10) e-courses.

carterbabysigning3.jpgSo are there downsides? As an instructor, Candice says the downsides lie with the parents. If the parent gets frustrated, the child will not want to do it, but “a normal child, with normal brain function and ability won’t turn this down. They love learning, mimicking and talking and they really want to communicate.” These results are similar to what Matt Stella has found with his daughter.

Critics say infants who sign speak later than those who do not. Proponents say this does not happen when you speak the words as you sign them to your child.

Baby signing is spreading-quickly and globally. Brilliant Bundles has clients in Australia; Britain’s National Literacy Trust has a website to help guide English parents into making an informed decision regarding signing, and Canada’s main parenting magazine’s website has a section dedicated to baby signing. New parents are discovering signing as a way to reduce frustration and bond earlier with their child. Baby signing might have started as a fad, but it is evolving into a widely used method of communicating with the very young.

Beth Carter completed her sophomore year at the University of Oregon and will attend Trinity College in Dublin, Ireland this fall. She is currently a CATALYST writing intern.

Sources:

BrilliantBundles.com     Littlesigners.com
literacytrust.org.uk/talktoyourbaby/signing. html
Parentscanada.com/learning/articles       http://www.mybabycantalk.com

Reparations. How much do we owe? 9/30/10

 

 

This Sunday, 91 years after the end of WWI, Germany will make the final reparations payment to the Allies and finally close the book on one of the bloodiest wars in history. On June 28, 1919, the Germans signed the Treaty of Versailles, admitting absolute guilt and absolute defeat, and agreeing to pay a $31.4 billion ($400 billion in 2010 terms) fine to the victors, primarily France and Belgium whose towns were destroyed during the war. How, you ask, could it take so long to pay back a debt that now seems irrelevant?

It’s all about the interest. In 1919, analysts speculated that it would take Germany until 1988 to meet its reparations obligation. However, when the Nazis came to power in 1933, Hitler stopped payments and used the money to rebuild German military power and wage another world war. After WWII and the partitioning of the country, West Germany took responsibility for the debt, settling with interest the bill in 1983. But not so fast. An agreement reached in 1953 called the London Debt Agreement dictated that all interest on the multi-million dollar foreign loans given to the Weimar Republic to pay off WWI Reparations had to be repaid should Germany ever be reunited. This did indeed happen, and the payment being made on Sunday is the last installment on the Weimar-era loans.

Since WWII, however, the etymology of the word “reparations” has changed dramatically. Victims of military aggression continue to demand financial compensation after a conflict, but the question becomes one of knowing how this policy has changed, and more importantly what does reparation mean to us now?

Assigning fiscal responsibility following war is very much a part of contemporary political culture. Many outstanding war debts await payment. While the German-Allied ledger for WWI and WWII is now square, the number of cases worldwide calling for admittance, apology and compensation from various conflicts multiplies rapidly.  One of the most prominent is the Chinese War Reparations Movement, which demands satisfaction in the form of financial compensation and admittance of guilt from Japan. The CWRM has been successful in publicizing war atrocities committed by Japan during WWII, but has only partially received any apology or monetary restitution, thus the goals are not achieved. Another example of a conflict yet to be settled monetarily is the First Gulf War, with Kuwait still waiting for a $22.3 billion payment from Iraq. With Iraq’s economy now destroyed, Iraq is asking the UN to write off its remaining reparation debt.

As a result of the Holocaust, the whole idea of reparation has been refashioned, and now means much more than a monetary transfer between states following war. Currently, reparation, without an “s,” suggests a way for a state to also address injustices committed against its own people in the past.

The term “reparation” appears now as common UN jargon, primarily referring to human rights violations and political injustice, not simply money. As defined by the UN, the term “reparation” is used for seven different categories of compensation, including “Satisfaction,” the cleansing of wrongful criminal records, and access to rehabilitation or therapeutic services. Of the seven categories, only two involve actual fines. In another example of the redefining of the term’s meaning, the U.S. Congress euphemistically called the reparations paid to Japanese Americans for wrongful internment “redress,” so as not to open the door for the other famous use of the word, the reparations owed to slaves.

This brings us to the present, and the future. With the US currently engaged in wars overseas (at least one of which it started), one can’t help wonder what the responsibility to Iraq and Afghanistan will be – and what reparations those nations will demand.

A Critical Profile, runway Sept. 2010.

I’ll never forget the first time I read the fresh, and at times pugnacious, work of Cathy Horyn. I was a freshman in high school. Horyn had just won the 2002 Eugenia Sheppard Award from the Council of Fashion Designers of America (CFDA) for an article in which she fearlessly exposed the business dealings of the untouchable Anna Wintour, Editor in Chief at Vogue USA. As a devoted member of the Vogue audience, I was appalled– and impressed. Horyn taught me, at fifteen, to look deeper. This moment spawned a love affair with the “Sunday Styles” section in the The New York Times, and a close read of Horyn’s “On the Runway” column every week. I didn’t always agree with her analysis, but she taught me use her column as a way of analyzing my own response.

As the in-house fashion critic at the Times since 1998, Horyn has provided an uncompromised voice for her readers, as she isn’t afraid of the influential fashion magazines or of powerful designers. She is both accessible and smart, even though her fearlessness often incites backlash from the fashion industry. Her coverage of this year’s Spring 2011 New York and Paris Fashion Weeks was consistent with her outspoken style, as she continued to position herself somewhere in between the old-guard high-fashion fashion and the business and technology-driven, increasingly attainable new face of the industry. She channels this conflict through her writing in both content and style, placing the concrete world of fashion into a broader context, and reminding us that fashion depicts the times we live in. She expects that in a recession the styles are often practical and modest, and as the industry becomes more money-driven and not creativity-based, Horyn guides us through the change but is not afraid to condemn it.

While many fashion critics get carried away with the technical, Horyn focuses instead on vivid description of the garments, shows and personalities. She is in love with clothes and with craft, but she maintains a certain distance, especially with her critiques of collections. In her column, she reveals her personality with anecdotes and colloquial language more often, appearing as one of fashion’s biggest fans, writing from within the audience. She manages to keep her authority while being immersed in the fashion world effortlessly through her language: never condescending to the audience, though sometimes to her subject.  She never loses her personal voice, whether the review is praise or a takedown, Cathy speaks as Cathy, and the reader gets to know her well.

The “On the Runway” column is a good example of how Horyn presents her persona. She speaks in the first person and conversationally. When referring to the lack of spring clothing in the spring collections, she casually says, “I bet we’ve seen more leather motorcycle jackets than bikinis. (In fact, where are those bathing suits and caftans?)” Her form of criticism here, as we see often, is to position herself on the same level as her reader, as if they were chatting about the collection in person. Though in a very different context, we see critics like John Berger do this very thing. In “The Hals Mystery,” Berger looks his reader in the eye, and helps explain his argument: “I am aware that I am failing to describe properly the desperation of the painting.” Similarly, Horyn frequently answers directly to her readers on her blog, making them feel like they are part of the conversation. Both critics for brief moments turn their attention directly to the audience. Horyn makes us feel comfortable and not as though she is writing from an elitist perspective that is often associated with high-fashion, but the confidence with which she writes makes us trust her authority.

When speaking of Horyn’s distinctive style, Berger again comes to mind. Their use of short but extremely descriptive sentences gives their arguments more weight, showing how simple writing and accessible language can evoke a clear visual.  When Berger describes a painting, as he does beautifully in “The Hals Mystery,” he explains the visual in loving detail. Under Hals’ model, writes Berger, “There is no pillow. Her head, turned so as to watch the painter, is pillowed on her own two hands.” These short sentences and the word “pillowed” vividly sketch the figure in the mind of the reader. Horyn illustrates clothes with a similar precision. “Although Mr. Owens began his career making long skirts, and didn’t care if they dragged in the dirt,” she writes of designer Rick Owens’ spring collection, “his most interesting designs were short dresses or tunics with the hems folded under, pillow-style, and perhaps a similar fold or two at the back. He also made one-shoulder tunics the color of bleached bones, with pleats spilling across the front and an air of mastery.” The first part of this description, the image of skirts “dragging in dirt” and a designer who didn’t care, present the man as an effortless and casual craftsman, and her obligatory detailing of the construction of the clothes is scrupulous in creating a mental snapshot for her reader.

However, there are aspects of Horyn’s writing that one cannot compare with John Berger. She, at a certain point, is more current and controversial. This is the woman who dared to write an exposé on Wintour, and criticizes the all-powerful Vogue relentlessly. She called the influential magazine “stale and predictable” and labeled how the magazine dealt with the recession as “embarrassing” in an article in the Times last year.  For her writing, Horyn has been banned from several designer shows, most notably Georgio Armani’s Fall 2009 show in Milan that she chronicled in her column.  She is one of the most polarizing names in fashion journalism, and her takedowns are legendary.  For the most part, Horyn thought this year’s New York Fashion Week (and largely Paris and Milan) to be either boring, unoriginal, or an excuse for young designers to “self-importantly present the trends­– transparency, punk, bold stripes– while making overloaded assertions about the modern woman.” To say she was unmoved this season is also to say that the classic Cathy Horyn jabs at designers were fewer than normal, if you don’t consider boring to be a jab.

But then there was Alexander Wang. Wang was symbolically and artistically butchered in the review of his spring collection. To Horyn, Wang embodies all that is wrong with the new fashion world: the abandonment of creativity for sell-ability and even worse: lack of courage.  To begin her siege, she states, “Even the most talented, surprising postmodernist designer can seem to have his feet planted in concrete compared to the weightlessness of Alexander Wang.”  Ouch. She continues: “Mr. Wang doesn’t really have courage in the traditional sense of trying something new and difficult, but he does have China.” This is a direct criticism not just of Wang’s talent and originality, but also of the current trend in fashion where couture is devalued in the name of mass production. Her attack brings to mind art critic Robert Hughes’ attack on Basquiat shortly after the graffiti artist’s death.

“It was a tale of a small untrained talent caught in the buzz saw of art-world promotion, absurdly overrated by dealers, collectors, critics and, not least, himself,” says Hughes. Hughes’ dismissive and at times scathing portrayal of Basquiat echoes Horyn; he is making a statement about the wider culture that would embrace an artist as Wang or Basquiat. “In a saner culture than this,” asserts Hughes, “the twenty-year-old Basquiat might have gone off to four years of boot camp in art school, learned some real drawing abilities (as distinct from the pseudo-convulsive notation that was his trademark) and, in general, acquired some of the disciplines and skills without which good art cannot be made. But these were the eighties; instead he became a star.” Wang is weightless, Basquiat is pseudo-convulsive; both men are of small talent and supremely overrated by the culture. “But don’t fret for the 26-year-old Mr. Wang,” concludes Horyn, “the combined whiplash of globalization and the Internet all but guarantees that these clothes will look new to someone.” Both critics end their sweeping attacks with thinly veiled sarcasm and snark; a final twist of the knife. It is in this setting that she uses her most authoritarian voice. The merits of Wang and his clothing are not in up for debate; they are universally bad.

With these eloquent diatribes, we see what is important to a critic, and what they do want from their subjects. This season, while Horyn wasn’t enamored with very many collections, she was bored to tears by many, offended by the default tackiness and lack of vision of some and pleased with the crisp and calm consistency of others. It was during the end of Paris Fashion Week, the last of the shows in the west, where she found something she could connect with: risk, color and camp.  The European shows, to Horyn, were like a “decent enough party that suddenly got better when a couple of drag queens crashed it.” She was referring specifically to the shows of Miu Miu and Luis Vuitton, headed by Miuccia Prada and Marc Jacobs, both known in the fashion world for indulging the cult of celebrity, which Horyn normally abhors. “The kind of artificiality in taste and self-presentation that Susan Sontag described nearly 50 years ago in ‘Notes on Camp,’” writes Horyn, “gave the collections a last-minute jolt of adrenaline.” She clarifies why this was so refreshing. To her, the campiness of Vuitton and Miu Miu were needed in a season that took no risks.  In her critique of Valentino we see her aversion to cautiousness: “too proper and self-conscious of their presence in fashion magazines to risk freaking anyone out.” Horyn wants to be freaked out now and then, to see something different, to see someone celebrate their craft, not simply to go through the motions.

Miu Miu especially excited Horyn. We understand exactly what she means when she said that Prada “sees what we see when we watch the reality-and talent-show stars, the game gate-crashers. She feels our pain ­– and celebrates it.” To Horyn, this paints a better picture of the times we live in than trying to show the economy of clothes that are still out of reach of even the more-than-well-off consumer. Prada took the opportunity to “seize on a noisiness that has been tugging at the margins.” With words like “freak out” and “noise,” Horyn is trying to tell us something that since the 1960s, and often before, cultural critics tried to get across in their work. They wanted to extract feelings, enthusiasm and life from the art. In the beginning of “Trash, Art, and the Movies,” Pauline Kael tries to explain why she loves the cinema. “A good movie makes you feel alive again,” she says.  Greil Marcus writes about the freedom in the sound of Sly Stone in “Sly Stone: The Myth of Staggerlee”: “it was complex, because freedom is complex; wild and anarchic, like the wish for freedom; sympathetic, affectionate, and coherent, like the reality of freedom. And it was all celebration, all affirmation, a music of endless humor and delight, like a fantasy of freedom.”  The many different feelings that Marcus finds in Stone’s music is what Kael looks for in movies and what Horyn looks for in garments. The art makes you talk (according to Kael, about the bad more than the good) and connect with others. These critics are fans. They feel the art that they write about and want to be challenged by it.

For Horyn, this year seemed to be about something bigger. Fashion Week in New York moved from Bryant Park to Lincoln Center, but the move was mainly symbolic. The industry, though one of constant flux, is undergoing a more massive transformation brought about largely by the Internet and online shopping, the mass production of goods and a priority placed on business over experience. The Lincoln Center tents had a Starbucks café and a blogging station. There were large monitors that checked in guests electronically– a far cry from the handwritten invitations of the past– that brought to mind an airport. “There’s a real sense of displacement,” writes an anxious Horyn, “but that seems to go with the new territory of fashion.”  Her skepticism of the corporate takeover and popularization of high fashion has nothing to do with elitism. For Horyn, it compromises the things that make her love fashion: the craft, the beauty and the feeling one gets when one sees something totally new. She has also been very vocal about her disapproval of Fashion’s Night Out, a big money maker for magazines but not for designers. She is fashion’s biggest fan, a champion of the art form, even if she can’t stand half of what she sees.

Good criticism speaks to the broader story, and the changing landscape of fashion has been Horyn’s chief concern since she started at the Times. At fifteen, Horyn taught me to make my own arguments, and though of course I was excited to read her banishment of Alexander Wang into the middlebrow, I know that if I disagreed it would start an inner discussion about why I felt this way. Her gift as a critic is that she is approachable, even in an industry focused on exclusivity.  To be sure, her exposé on Anna Wintour and her all-consuming influence on the direction of the industry (it was her idea to move to Lincoln Center) did nothing to change the pace of the transformation. What it did do, however, was to make her audience of devotees and detractors alike question what it is they love about fashion.

from gothamist.com

The author and her late husband, John.

The Year of Magical Thinking Review. December, 2010.

Grief is the most general of afflictions.”- Joan Didion

She can’t eat anything but scallion-and-ginger congee. She can’t give away his shoes, remove his voice from the answering machine or finish a piece that she knows he can’t edit. The irrational, psychologically and physiologically debilitating disease known as grief consumes her. Joan Didion’s The Year of Magical Thinking isn’t a self-serving memoir about the death of her husband of almost 40 years, John Gregory Dunne, but an introspective and meditative look into the thought process of a woman stricken by grief. Didion, after all, often uses her pen to analyze her response to the world around her; this time she has produced writing that is more personal but more insightful than her other works.  Through memory, poetry, and expert evaluation she explores her new world in the best way she knows: to make sense of it, to evaluate it, to bring it all together and write it down. She finds that grief is an inescapable part of being human.

The first thing Didion wrote after John collapsed on their Upper East Side living room floor after suffering a massive heart attack was only days later. “Life Changes in an instant. The ordinary instant.” Already, in a fog of shock after losing her husband, she shows Didion-esque clarity.  That night, she and John had just returned from the hospital where their daughter, Quintana Roo, was in a coma after her flu turned into pneumonia that was followed by septic shock and a stroke. John read and had a Scotch, Didion made dinner. They were talking at the dinner table when he raised his left arm and fell silent in his chair. She thought he was joking. The demolition of life as she knew it occurred in an instant, during a routine that she and John habitually shared.  “You sit down to dinner. And then gone.”

In The Year of Magical Thinking, Didion recalls her relationship with John, trying to understand her pain. Her use of repetition shows the constant obsessing over certain thoughts, conversations and memories. This process is familiar to those who have felt loss, but Didion process these emotions lucidly. For example, she recounts one summer, when she and John lived in Brentwood Park, California, numerous times throughout the book and we get an intimate look into their marriage. They would work, watch Tenko on TV, then John would read in the pool while Didion gardened, they would swim, work for a few more hours and then go out to eat at their favorite restaurant for a shrimp quesadilla with rice and beans. To help her identify the reason she keeps coming back to this particular summer, she cites The Merck Manual 16th Edition, that says the harder, “complicated grief,” or “pathological bereavement,” is caused in part when the couple is “unusually” dependent on one another.  To Didion, their “dependent” relationship (when she was stuck in San Francisco for an extra night he flew in for dinner at their favorite restaurant and took a midnight flight back to Los Angeles) was not “unusually dependent,” but instead “unusually lucky.”

In the book, she examines John’s physical death as if to prove to that there was nothing she could have done to save him, drawing on medical records, doctor’s opinions and a meticulous rehashing of the moments that preceded his heart attack. We see the mental process of a woman coming to terms with reality, trying to understand what has happened. She consults poetry, sociological and psychological expertise and compares her experience to that of humanity, seeing how she measures up. To supplement the doctors’ cold analyses or the sociologist’s sweeping statements, Didion found reassurance in Emily Post, the twentieth century’s First Lady of etiquette, who described feeling cold as a symptom of grief the same way the Institute of Medicine’s 1984 compilation did, as total physiological change.  She found that she measured up pretty evenly with the writers and experts throughout the ages. Her meticulous research helped her comprehend her experience, and when we read it, it can help us understand our own.

Didion’s battering pace, the repetitive fragments (“and then… gone”), and the way she so articulately looks at and listens to herself are made more effective coming from a woman who since the 1960s has been writing about loss: of parents and homeland in Slouching Toward Bethlehem, of landscape in Where I was From and of lovers in many of her novels. Didion, who is so thorough, precise and patient in her style, remains this way in The Year of Magical Thinking, but her self-analysis is interrupted by the snippets of phrases that preoccupy her. These insights into her mind (Life changes in an instant. The ordinary instant) show the breaking-down of her capability to think rationally or fluidly. In this way, her pseudo-stream-of-consciousness style does a better job of channeling her emotional state than the emotions themselves, which are hard to describe.

Describing the death of her parents, she writes, “My father was dead, my mother was dead, I would need for awhile to watch for mines, but I would still get up in the morning and send out the laundry.” But grief–put simply and movingly here– “is different. Grief has no distance. Grief comes in waves, paroxysms, sudden apprehensions that weaken the knees and blind the eyes and obliterate the dailiness of life.” The Year of Magical Thinking is a look at what one day most people will experience: collapse, loss and loneliness. Most of us will have to dole out a loved one’s clothing, re-record the voicemail and speak into silence. By putting herself under a microscope at her most vulnerable time, Didion taps into our collective grief. Quintana died later that year, but Didion didn’t need to amend the book; her message remained the same. Sometimes we need writers like Didion to show us what we feel, so we too can measure up. But sometimes we just need a great read. This book accomplishes both.

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