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Discrepant SolaceContemporary Literature and the Work of Consolation$
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David James

Print publication date: 2019

Print ISBN-13: 9780198789758

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: July 2019

DOI: 10.1093/oso/9780198789758.001.0001

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Life-Righting and Magical Thinking

Life-Righting and Magical Thinking

(p.148) 5 Life-Righting and Magical Thinking
Discrepant Solace

David James

Oxford University Press

In Chapter 5 parallel or potential fortunes become the dramatic subject and aesthetic trigger for texts that enter the consolatory scene of magical thinking: Joan Didion’s now-iconic The Year of Magical Thinking (2005) and Doris Lessing’s final book, Alfred and Emily (2008). Taken together, Didion and Lessing present us with works of ‘life-righting–’, revealing the inescapably tempting yet formally generative prospect of rewriting what cannot be rectified. Simultaneously conjuring and questioning consolatory counterlives, their books draw rhetorical and structural energy from existential speculation, while confronting the dilemmas of recreating the dead. Lessing and Didion countenance only to rescind the hypothetical amelioration of scarred fortunes and the compensations of magical thought, respectively—mobilizing this process of affective self-examination as a formal catalyst for contemporary memoir.

Keywords:   memoir, counterlives, magical thinking, grief-writing, Joan Didion, Doris Lessing

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