My wife and my mother are the two most important women in my life, but for contrarian’s sake, I’ll pick Joan Didion because she is my favorite living author and the person that helped me understand what it is to write a great essay.
Her book, “The White Album,” changed my life. There was one article about the Los Angeles water systems — how water would travel from reservoirs north of the city down into Los Angeles, ultimately going into people’s homes then back into the sewers and out to the Pacific Ocean. She tracked the water like it was a farm-to-table vegetable, documenting what happened to the water at each process. She talked about how it was cleaned and how long it sat at one place before ultimately draining into some pond and trickling back into the ocean. After I read it, I couldn’t believe I just read about something like water and was so fascinated by it.
I also read her book, “The Year of Magical Thinking.” There, she described the first year living alone after her husband of fifty-some odd years died. She talked about making two table settings out of habit, and being constantly reminded that she no longer has that person there she shared her whole life with.
I will never be the kind of writer that Didion is, but I will take the things she did so wonderfully and apply them to the things that I do. I don’t remember how I found her books, but I’m so glad that I did because she is one of the most influential women in my life, despite the fact that I’ve never had the chance to meet her.