The Real Paul Jones

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Joan Didion – The Lecture

Just back from a moving reading by Joan Didion from her book, The Year of Magical Thinking, as part of her visit to UNC for the Morgan Writer-in-Residence Program. I’d read the book earlier. Sally gave it to me for Christmas which when I think of it is quite a odd book to be given. At that time, Sam Garrard had not died. We hadn’t been on our New Year’s walk at which a man about 10 year older than me rushed up the steep hill and fell dead just before we caught up with him. Before our friend and neighbor, David Galinsky was struck down crossing a poorly lit highway. Didion’s book is just right. As she answered questions, one was why did you write the book? To write your way out of grief? “No, I wrote it because I had some news to give.”

After that and a few other exchanges, an aggitated nicely dressed man in his say early 60s bent over the question mic. He started: “Why did you read for a book that any of us could have bought and read for ourselves? Why didn’t you prepare a lecture? I came for a lecture.” (silence)
JD: “Because this is billed as a reading. I was asked to give a reading. So of course I read.” (applause)
Man: “No. It was to be a lecture. I read it was a lecture.” (hisses as he walked the length of the completely filled Memorial Hall and vanished — I think into the night.)
I think he got a lecture, but not as he expected it.

I did check the various publicity and everywhere it said “reading.” Occassionally the word “lecture” also appears. Some times, the word “speak” is used.
As we say down in this neck of the woods, that guy “must not be from around here” or “Where did he get his raisings.”


  1. A UNC doc who was sitting behind me said the ‘lecture’ guy was one of his colleagues who always does wacky stuff like that. Pretty outstanding event, whatever it was. Although I don’t get the ‘residence’ part of writer-in-residence if you’re only here for a day and a half. My friend Kelly Link is actually residing in Hickory all semester for her residency at Lenoir-Rhyne.

  2. Paul

    3/1/2006 at 10:18 pm

    Maybe one day at Carolina is worth a week at Lenoir-Rhyne? Seriously, Joan Didion was an exception to the usual residency at UNC. Didion was originally scheduled to spend a week at Carolina a couple of years back. That became the Year of Magical Thinking and as you can imagine her visit was canceled and to be rescheduled later. This is/was later, but by now she’s decided not to do residencies at all. So she wanted to keep as much of her commitment as she felt like she could and did. I don’t know the other terms of her visit.

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