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April 13, 1979 - Image 6

Resource type:
The Michigan Daily, 1979-04-13

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Page 6-Friday, April 13, 1979-The Michigan Daily

Didion speaks on

Joan Didion, a renowned California
novelist, captured the attention of
many professors and aspiring writers
with her talk Wednesday at the Hop-
wood ceremonies. Professor John
Aldridge, Chairman of the Hopwood
Committee, introduced Didion as a
woman with much clarity of vision, one
who refuses to provide comfort or
distraction to a culture already
engulfed in it. She spoke on a topic of
great interest to her audience, namely
"Making Up Stories."
To begin, Didion reeled off a long
chain of amusing associations that led
her from thoughts on Detroit to the
Charles Manson murders. This was to
illustrate her (really, anyone's) natural
flow of thought. She rambled off
another train concerning a certain
event in her life, and added emotion to
give the scenes a story-like quality.
THIS, SHE explained, is where a
story begins. These associations we all
have remind us of our lives, and they
come with everything we see or think

of. A memory, though, is not actually a
story - rather, it tricks you into a
story. To "keep down the noise" of your
constant associations, you can distract
yourself by making them cohere, by
binding them together with the
emotional impressidhs of your
memory. This is called writing a story.
Stories don't come naturally, though.
She conceives of an idea that could bind
his or her thoughts together, and then,
as Didion put it, "you have to hammer
it, work with it," just like a sculpture.

She related a .brief anecdote of how
Joseph Heller first conceived Catch.22
to show how such an idea comes, a
moment of inspiration. He lay resting
once upon his bed, when unexpectedly
some words flowed eloquently through
his head - they were eventually the fir-
st two sentences of that novel, and
nothing else.
DIDION WENT on to claim that the
stories you write needn't come fromi
experience. There, though, they begin,
she said, in this "field of images that

'One thing a writer doesn 't
like to be told is that anyone
else has ever written a novel.'
-Joan Didion
assaults us every day we live."
The lecture sidetracked for a bit as
Didion spoke of her one experience in
teaching at Berkley, and of a novel she
was working on at the time. One thihg
she painfully noticed was that everyone
there talked about novels. "One thing a
writer doesn't like to be told," she
commented, "is that anyone else teas
ever written a novel."
-Joan Didion; feels a major problemiis
that most people think a writer sees; a
novel complete from its conception. A
case in point was Fitzgerald's The Last
Tycoon, which she views as the early
form of a brilliant work - yet ma'ny
literate people consider it worthless. 4A
novel is not a plan carried out," she
stated firmly.
A Book of Common Prayer was the
novel developing in Didion's mind sin
part at Berkley. To complete her talk
she told a rather intimate account of its
development. It began basically as two
separate stories, orre in the South and
the other in her imaginary Central
American country, Boca;Grande. Then,
through the inspiration of a character,
she united the stories as two parts of. a
woman's life. Her mind became coin-
pletely caught up in the creative
process, and she confided, "While I was
writing this I lived in Boca Grande."l
In addition to A Book -of Common
Prayer, Joan Didion has authored
several novels and a collection of
essays. She has another such collection,
entitled The White Album, coming ut
this June.




bill barbour, mary bacarella, ton9
bloenk, mark coleman, anthony
chen, mark dighton, el-eanora-
diliscia, jim eckert, scott eyerly, pat
fabrizio, owen gleiberman, kurt
grosman, diane haithman, katie
herzfeld, steve hook, mark johans-
son, matt kopka, mark kowalsky,
marty levine, lee levine, ricop
loringer, peter manis, anna nissen
gerard pape, lily prigionero, kim
potter, alan rubenfeld, anne sharpt
nina shishkoff, mike taylor, keiti
tosolt, peter wallach, dan weiss
carol wierzbicki, tim yagle.


_ 4


By Joseph A.Walker
Featuring MEL WINKLER.
Guest Actor-in.Residence
Wed: April I- Sat. April 14 "PM.
Sun.April15 2PM flwer Center


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