The first paragraph of a somewhat rambling think piece about Joan Didion snagged my attention.
EVEN NOW, even in this century, decades past the pictures with Corvettes and cigarettes and sunglasses, even after her manner, with its uneasy admixture of condescension toward the world and delicacy toward the self, became case study for how to be slightly dangerous and stylish and aloof as a writer without the compensatory aid of masculine bravado, there is always murmuring about Joan Didion.
Um, ah. That’s quite a tidy summing-up of why I don’t like Joan Didion. I think that admixture is exactly the wrong one to have, because it gets everything reversed. The condescension (or doubt, or critical view, or skepticism, or caution) should be for the self, and the delicacy (or interest, or openness, or curiosity, or attention) should be for the world.
I don’t like writers or thinkers who are more interested in their own selves than they are in all the rest of the world combined. They’re laboring under a misapprehension. No one person is more interesting than all the rest of the world. Not even Shakespeare, not even Keats – and I can say “even” about them because they both were insatiably interested in the world. Same with Montaigne – he was always talking about himself, yes, but not with “delicacy” but rather with a clinical, experimental kind of interest that combined well with his fascination with the world. I don’t like precious, exquisite little droplets of self-obsession.
I don’t like Corvettes or cigarettes, either.