Coca-Colas in the morning. Yellow Corvettes and Vanda orchids, the shuffle of the surf in Malibu and the view from the window of the Royal Hawaiian Hotel. There are the beads on her newly born daughter’s wrist that spell N.I. for ‘No Information’; there is the territory on the map for which they named her, Quintana Roo. There is John baptising Quintana in the sink the night they adopted her so that she might not, God forbid, go to limbo. There he is at the dinner table with his left hand raised, slumped motionless and Didion saying, automatically, ‘Don’t do that’ – and there is Quintana at 39 in the ICU, dying of acute pancreatitis. We can even, if you’re still with us, travel all the way back and tell you how Didion is descended from people who ‘parted ways’ with the Donners out West, which means the story she was raised with was one that showed how it could all go to hell in an instant, how unexpectedly a party could turn into people eating each other. We know enough for her to become a background against which we try to make sense of the rest.
– Patricia Lockwood, Joan Didion’s Pointillism, The London Review of Books