Keeping A Note Its An Ap English Assignment And Book That Helps The Mind Grow - AP English - English

3727 words - 15 pages

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Joan Didion
On Keeping a Notebook
The author of novels, short stories, screenplays, and essays, Joan Didion
(b. 1934) began her career in 1956 as a staff writer at Vogue magazine in New
York. In 1963 she published her first novel, Run River, and the following year
returned to her native California. Didion’s essays have appeared in periodicals
ranging from Mademoiselle to the National Review. Her essay “On Keeping
a Notebook” can be found in her collection of essays, Slouching Towards
Bethlehem (1968). Didion’s other nonfiction publications include The White
Album (1979), Salvador (1983), Miami (1987), After Henry (1992), Political
Fictions (2001), Fixed Ideas: America since 9.11 (2003), and Where I Was From
Didion has defined a writer as “a person whose most absorbed and passion­
ate hours are spent arranging words on pieces of paper. I write entirely to find out
what’s on my mind, what I’m thinking, what I’m looking at, what I’m seeing and
what it means, what I want and what I’m afraid of.” She has also said that “all
writing is an attempt to find out what matters, to find the pattern in disorder, to
find the grammar in the shimmer. Actually I don’t know whether you find the
grammar in the shimmer or you impose a grammar on the shimmer, but I am
quite specific about the grammar—I mean it literally. The scene that you see in
your mind finds its own structure; the structure dictates the arrangement of the
words. . . . All the writer has to do really is to find the words.” However, she
warns, “You have to be alone to do this.”
“‘That woman Estelle,’” the note reads, “‘is partly the reason why
George Sharp and I are separated today.’ Dirty crepe-de-Chine wrapper,
hotel bar, Wilmington RR, 9:45 a.m. August Monday morning.”
Since the note is in my notebook, it presumably has some meaning to
me. I study it for a long while. At first I have only the most general notion
of what I was doing on an August Monday morning in the bar of the hotel
across from the Pennsylvania Railroad station in Wilmington, Delaware
(waiting for a train? missing one? 1960? 1961? why Wilmington?), but I
do remember being there. The woman in the dirty crepe-de-Chine wrapper
had come down from her room for a beer, and the bartender had heard
before the reason why George Sharp and she were separated today.
“Sure,” he said, and went on mopping the floor. “You told me.” At the
other end of the bar is a girl. She is talking, pointedly, not to the man be­
side her but to a cat lying in the triangle of sunlight cast through the open
door. She is wearing a plaid silk dress from Peck & Peck, and the hem is
coming down.
Here is what it is: The girl has been on the Eastern Shore, and now
she is going back to the city, leaving the man beside her, and all she can
Valentina Miranda Rincon
22 Didion / On Keeping a Notebook
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see ahead are the viscous summer sidewalks and the 3 a...

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