With Slouching Towards Bethlehem, Joan Didion became the voice of Sacramento. Three years after her wonderful book she found herself a victim of the early stages of artistry. Lucky enough to traverse this difficult path alongside a partner that valued her writing. Working towards becoming an author himself. He understood the fluctuations of income, and relied on each other and friends to support their journey. Eventually becoming one of the most influential writers of the 20th century. Surviving the poverty, near brinks on insanity, the doubt, that the successful find a way to overcome.
Long past those days of poverty and living within new struggles she took a look at her Daybrook of 1966. She began to reflect on the man that change her literary and personal world, Mr. Henry Robbins. People change our perception of the world as they maneuver through our lives. Often disappearing as miraculously as they came. We need people that are active in increasing our faith. For Joan Didion, the skinny sickly girl from Sacramento, Henry Robbins became a friend, mentor, and faith provider. Through a long journey toward greatness, she dedicated the title to her wonderful book after him–After Henry:
In the end I put on a black silk dress and went with my husband to the Bistro in Beverly Hills and met Henry Robbins and began, right away, to laugh. The three of us laughed until two in the morning, when we were no longer at the Bistro but at the Daisy, listening over and over to “In the Midnight Hour” and “Softly As I Leave You” and to one another’s funny, brilliant, enchanting voices, voices that transcended lost laundry and babysitters and prospects of $5.29, voices full of promise, writers’ voices.
We admire people that contain the strength, wisdom, and beauty that seem to avoid the us. We must become the people that prevent the world from seperating us from our souls. The Joan Didion of 1966 is not the woman that we’ve mythologized. This young women have modeled their writing after, but a writer making no income from her book. When she took a chance meeting with Henry Robbins, like Dante meeting Virgil before a long journey, he offered the wisdom and power necessary to become an artist.
This relationship exemplifies the necessity for a young artist to have mentorship as we move through the treacherous world of book publishing. We need one another to provide the faith necessary for undergoing any creative endeavor. No one is self-made, there are to many factors and hidden hands working for us. Henry was her Virgil, and the early morning call of 1979 had her looking for memorabilia to remember her friend, for Henry had transcended the temporal realm. Joan speaks on her friend, saying:
In short we got drunk together, and before the summer was out Henry Robbins had signed contracts with each of us, and, from that summer in 1966 until the summer of 1979, very few weeks passed during which one or the other of us did not talk to Henry Robbins about something which was amusing us or interesting us or worrying us, about our hopes and about our doubts, about work and love and money and gossip; about our news, good or bad. On the July morning in 1979 when we got word from New York that Henry Robbins had died on his way to work a few hours before, had fallen dead, age fifty-one, to the floor of the 14th Street subway station, there was only one person I wanted to talk to about it, and that one person was Henry.
At each stop she uncovers the mythic narratives that elude other observers: Didion tells us about the fantasies the media construct around crime victims and presidential candidates; she gives us new interpretations of the stories of Nancy Reagan and Patty Hearst; she charts America’s rollercoaster ride through evanescent booms and hard times that won’t go away.
A bracing amalgam of skepticism and sympathy, After Henry is further proof of Joan Didion’s infallible radar for the true spirit of our age. Continue reading Alain De Botton On the Importance of Relationships.