§ion=&combo2=&text1=&text2=&SocNetUsername=&SocNetPassword=&authCode=& 7th Decade Thoughts

7th Decade Thoughts

Thoughts about books, politics and history (personal and otherwise), pictures I've taken and pictures I've edited.

Sunday, January 15, 2006

TITLE: The Last Thing He Wanted
AUTHOR: Joan Didion
GENRE: Novel
RATING: 9 (/10)
An intellectual thriller. Didion’s prose is brilliant—incisive, spare, understated to emphasize what’s broiling under the surface. The narrator is an unknown woman piecing the story together long after the fact, but she’s a woman who knew the main character, Elena MacMahon, in her earlier life—indeed the two women’s daughters went to the same private school, though the woman themselves were barely acquaintances. Elena left her husband—which she thought of as leaving “the house on the
Pacific Coast Highway” rather than leaving the man. Her daughter leaves with her but resents the life she left behind; her resentment haunts Elena.

The story that needs stitching together begins when Elena becomes a reporter and is covering a Presidential campaign when she just leaves—is on her way before she realizes she has decided to leave. She goes to Florida to visit an elderly and ailing father whose existence was troublesome for her in her youth because he had “no profession” to fill in on the forms—he has always said only that he “does deals”. This time he has a deal he can’t follow through because of his illness so Elena takes his place and soon finds herself on a small island off the coast of Costa Rica, involved in the arms trade, Iran Contra and political assassination. Elena moves through the experience on what seems like a kind of auto-pilot. The narrator has to rely on lengthy dry documents from special Congressional investigations into the “incident” and what the government men involved are willing to tell her (which isn’t much). “Cover it up and distance one’s self” seems the watch word of officials and official reports alike. The reader strains to find the emotional content of the story which is clearly buried down there somewhere. Didion finds it. Posted by Picasa


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