Review of Polaroids from the Dead


From The New York Times Book Review

by M.G. Lord

The title essay in Joan Didion's 1968 collection, Slouching Towards Bethlehem, ends with two chilling portraits: a 5-year-old whose counterculture mother feeds her hallucinogens and a 3-year-old who gnaws on an electric cord while his parents rummage for spilled drugs. Ms. Didion leaves readers wondering: what will become of those children? They--or children with backgrounds like theirs--surface in the first section of Douglas Coupland's collection of essays. . . . Many of them seem to have survived their hippie upbringing and evolved into prim young adults. Yet others seem intent on preserving their parents' tradition of child rearing as criminal neglect. All come into focus in the manner of a Polaroid, through a slow accretion of details--faint at first and then, like Didion images, searing and unforgettable.