Materialism: Then and Now

Mary-Kay Wilmers reviewing Joan Didion’s new book Blue Nights in the London Review of Books:

“Three months later he rang Didion and her husband to say he’d just delivered ‘a beautiful baby girl’ to a mother who was unable to keep her: were they interested? After they’d been to the hospital and looked at the baby and made up their minds to have her they called on Dunne’s brother and his wife in Beverly Hills for a celebratory drink (‘only when I read my early fiction, in which someone was always downstairs making a drink and singing “Big noise blew in from Winnetka”, did I realise how much we all drank and how little thought we gave to it’). Lenny, Didion’s sister-in-law, offered to meet her at Saks the next morning to buy a layette (in the 1960s people still talked about ‘layettes’); if she spent 80 dollars Saks would throw in a cot – a ‘bassinette’.

I took the glass and put it down.

I had not considered the need for a bassinette.

I had not considered the need for a layette.

It’s hard to imagine that happening now, when having a baby and having the stuff seem to be inseparable parts of the same enterprise.

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