This week we're basking in the genius of Give Sorrow Words: Maryse Holder's Letters From Mexico, After Henry by Joan Didion, and Ongoingness: The End of a Diary by Sarah Manguso.
This book is out of print, which it should not be, because it remains as shocking and vital as when it was first printed in 1979. Maryse Holder was an unorthodox, bisexual academic with a complex and insatiable desire for human connection when she set off for Mexico. Her letters home to her best friend tell a story of failed escape- wherever we go there we are- and the hollow pain that comes with sexual appetites fulfilled and romantic ones denied. Maryse is one part Bridget Jones and one part Rilke — until her letters stop when she is tragically murdered. This book serves as a beautiful token of what a willful woman is capable of as well as a painful reminder that escaping your homeland (as some of us may want to do, may have threatened to do) doesn't guarantee safety or joy. Find your vintage copy.
Of all Joan Didion's nonfiction collections, the one I go back to most frequently is a bit of a deep cut: After Henry, which is her book of essays about the 80s. No one is smarter about the rise of Ronald Reagan, but I particularly love her essay, "Sentimental Journeys," about the Central Park Jogger case. Sadly, almost three decades later, the racial and class dynamics Didion describes are still highly relevant, especially as our monstrous President elect still believes the exonerated Central Park Five are guilty. I hope Didion has it in her to dissect Trumpism, because she'd have the most coldly insightful take.