"The Year of Magical Thinking" Joan Didion | Skillshare Projects

"The Year of Magical Thinking" Joan Didion

I just finished reading "The Year of Magical Thinking" by Joan Didion. The book chronicles Didion's experiences with grief after the sudden death of her husband, John. I love how raw and candid she is in talking about grief, a subject that seems almost taboo. To quote wikipedia:

"The narrative structure of the book follows Didion's re-living and re-analysis of her husband's death throughout the year following it, in addition to caring for Quintana. With each replay of the event, the focus on certain emotional and physical aspects of the experience shifts. Didion also incorporates medical and psychological research on grief and illness into the book."

Here are some of the notes I took both while I was reading the book, and shortly after.

Once I reviewed my notes, I sketched 5 different concepts.

CONCEPT 1: A "D" with a blue eye

At one point in the book, Didion recounts being asked if she would like to donate her husband's organs. She recalls that years ago, her and John had visited a medical examiner's office. There had been someone from the eye bank tagging bodies for cornea removal. Didion thinks of John's eyes, and goes on to quote EE Cummings:

and what I want to know is

how do you like your blueeyed boy

Mister Death

A common theme throughout the book is weaving cold hard medical reality with quotes from famous literature, and that's what I was trying to capture with this concept.

CONCEPT 2: A "D" that ends with an EKG line

Didion's husband dies of a Massive Coronary Event. Throughout the book, she would often repeat:

"You sit down to dinner and life as you know it ends. In a heartbeat."

With this concept, I'm trying to illustrate just how quickly her life changed.

CONCEPT 3: A "D" with an anatomically accurate heart

Another main theme throughout the book is Didion's fixation with her husband's autopsy, and fully understanding exactly what happened to him, in order to figure out how she might have fixed it. This concept is attempting to capture her medical research.


CONCEPT 4: A "D" combined with a cross

In the book, Didion poses the quesion: 

"Were faith and grief the same?"

Something about that question really resonated with me, so I wanted to capture it in sketch form.

CONCEPT 5: A "D" composed of leaves, some of which are falling/dying

Excerpt from Chapter 6: 

"Several years ago, walking east on Fifty-seventh Street between Sixth and Fifth Avenues on a bright fall day, I had what I believed at the time to be an apprehension of death. It was an effect of light: quick sunlight, dappling, yellow leaves falling... a shower of gold, spangled, very fast, a falling of the biright."

This concept attempts to visualize what Didion has described here, her image of death.

I would love to get some feedback on which concept to bring to the computer! Super excited to be doing this project, I've never done anything like it before.


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