Joan Didion and Coffee the Real Wake-Up

Photo of Joan Didion Courtesy of the Internet

Photo of Joan Didion Courtesy of the Internet

I remember February 23, 1978. That is the day author Joan Didion came to San Francisco State University to read her work. I was a student then, majoring in creative writing.

There was a crowd. I remember trying to strain my neck and see her. I remember cupping my ears to hear her. I shoved my way to the front to be close to this amazing woman. I wanted to touch the hem of her garment and receive some sort of power. She was firing text out into the audience, syntactically sparse, crafted, and deliberate. The impact necessitated a debriefing, a therapeutic session with my adviser, poet William Dickey.

These memories rambled through my brain the last few days in two thousand and nine as I was re reading her book, Salvador. Several years after the public reading mentioned above, Joan Didion would be living and writing about the events of government sponsored murder, disappearances, and uprisings memorialized-all in a terse 108 pages.

Salvador is a reminder of the fact that there are more important occupations than worshiping coffee. She writes, “I was invited one morning to a gathering of Salvadorian writers, a kind of informal coffee hour arranged by the American embassy.”

As I was reading this I began to fantasize about what it must have been like to attend. My mind was wandering, thinking of all the coffee possibilities.

However, in the next paragraph she relates about the “sentences” spoken to her at this coffee gathering, “It’s not possible to speak of intellectual life in El Salvador, Every day we loose more. … We are the only survivors…. Some have been disappeared…”

This read of Salvador mandated that I re-calibrate my emotional, intellectual, and hedonistic equipment. This is a confession.

I need to appreciate what it takes to bring coffee to my door. I need to appreciate …

© 2009 all rights reserved Pat Riggs with the exception of the photo of Ms. Didion Internet Sources

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