Bookish Girl Should…

by ,

……not paraphrase and only use direct quotes.

When I wrote yesterday I did not have the book I was quoting in front of me. I stated the following:

This one mentioned the basic premise of the book. Not in so many words it said – ‘After returning from the hospital room of their now dead daughter the author’s husband dies.’

As it turns out some of you took what I wrote as a direct quote. I apologize, I most definitely should have been clearer and explicitly stated that I was paraphrasing.

However, some interesting and thought provoking comments came through as a result and many made me second guess my memory of the synopsis. (Which – in the interest of full disclosure I had initially read well past my bedtime). When I got home from work yesterday I pulled out the offender and read the passage again. I think you all may be right. After my initial reading, my brain took what I head read and instantly allowed my soul to react without checking itself. When I wrote yesterday I was writing from a biased brain and, I now realize, a brain that swirled my memory a bit.

As it turns out the factual accuracy of the synopsis is correct. Each sentence by itself represents actual fact. However, I believe that the presentation misrepresents the book’s spirit and spoils the book.

Judge for yourself:

“In December 2003, Didion’s only daughter died from a runaway pneumonia infection. After returning from the hospital, Didion’s husband, author John Gregory Dunne, died so suddenly of a massive heart attack that Didion at first mistook the event for a failed joke. As the initial numbness wore off, she realized, “Widows did not throw themselves in the burning raft out of grief. The burning raft was instead an accurate representation of the place to which their grief (not their families, not the community, not custom, their grief) had taken them.” This unsparingly honest, often funny and surprising memoir of grief never reaches for cliche or banality.”

The magic of this book is watching it unfold. At the start you know her daughter is sick, you know her husband has died. The book is primarily about her husband’s death and the following year of grief and coping. You learn about her daughter’s illness and it is prominently featured throughout the narrative. It is never clear the illness if fatal and it is never the focus of the book. It is used more as a lens through which to see how the author’s grief and hope has manifested itself in her everyday life. In any case….the summary while factually correct misrepresents the book and, in my mind, takes away from a beautifully written story. So, I’m still pissed…albeit for different reasons. And I still believe that a fact checker would have worked to edit it so that the words and sentences landed a bit differently on our psyche.

Your comments also have me questioning my memory of the book itself. Unfortunately I do not own a hard copy of the book, just the audio file (a situation that needs to be corrected!) so I cannot review the ending. In my head I remembered an ending that did include the death of her daughter. However, now I think that I may have done what Jane did and googled to determine her daughter’s fate after I finished. (This book really moved me.) The knowledge I gained may have rooted itself in my mind as part of the ending of the book.


{Day 13 – Wanted fact checker and/or Copy Editor: Did the memoir include the death of her daughter? Only those with an actual copy of the book in hand need apply. Temp to perm position as this blog could really use a copy editor and a permanent fact checker. Apply Within. Pay sucks. Benefits are better. Hypocrisy seems to run rampant if the author is left unchecked.}

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