Raw, adjective: 9. disagreeably damp and chilly, as the weather or air

Officially my first post of 2008, and with it, 40 mph winds and a blustery winter storm wailing at the bay window out front. Northern California is getting its winter after all, and it's due to hit in the next several hours. Hunkering down is the plan.

Which is fine with me, after a week or so on the opposite coast. Good times, good brews (cheers, Hearn), good long walks on the beach. Wisdom gained in the course of the long weekend:

1. WaWa is king.
2. Rehoboth is better in the off-season, in an empty echoing hushed chill sort of way.
3. The ball drops and the new year begins whether you are ready for it or not.

So back again, then, in California, with luggage sprawled all over the place and a crispy tree clinging to its last few moments of glory before it all crashes down in the form of an ugly awkward drag down to the sidewalk and a new year that with it brings new resolutions and fresh starts and all that shit that's supposed to inspire us. I, of course, scrawled out my resolutions on the flight home (all 72 of them, per usual) and while many of them remain the same year to year (floss every day, practice yoga 7 days a week, cut back to a bottle of Jack a day), a few have scrappily clawed their way to the forefront this year.

And one of those, perhaps the most pressing of those, is writing. Surrounding myself with writers, losing myself in the writing, producing more consistently on the outside instead of just marinating in it here on the inside. Two big deadlines for Jan. 31 and Feb. 29, which will be kept secret in the event that I fail shamefully, and a reboot of sorts on the whole writing project.

And a part of that is coming home to the writers whose careers drive me. One of those is Joan Didion. A cool, brisk native Californian who's made her name as a political journalist, essayist and fiction writer, she's a rock on the scene and generally a badass. Had read bits and pieces of her work here and there, but Didion's 2005 prize-winning turn, The Year Of Magical Thinking, really brought me into her camp. A memoir of death and grief on the sudden loss of her long-time husband, John Gregory Dunne, and the accompanying spiral into terminal illness of her daughter, Quintana, it opened up the subject of grief to me as a noble and honest and commendable topic that needn't be relegated to fiction or genre work, but is instead an integral part of the whole "being alive" thing that fuels literature.

Jonathan Yardley of the WaPost revisted Didion's late 60's work, Slouching Toward Bethlehem, last week. His article here ("In a Time of Posturing, Didion Dared Slouching" offers a good glimpse at Didion the writer.

NPR had an excerpt in October 2005, when Magical Thinking came out. It starts:

Life changes fast.

Life changes in the instant.

You sit down to dinner and life as you know it ends.

The question of self-pity.

Find the rest here.

(Have you broken your resolutions yet?)


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