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The White Album (1979)

by Joan Didion

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1,815246,497 (4.13)71
First published in 1979, "The White Album "is a mosaic" "of the late sixties and seventies. It includes, among other bizarre artifacts and personalities, the dark journeys and impulses of the Manson family, a Balck Panther Party press conference, the story of John Paul Getty's museum, the romance of water in an arid landscape, and the swirl and confusion of the sixties. With commanding sureness of mood and language, Joan Didion exposes the realities and dreams of that age of self-discovery whose spiritual center was California.… (more)
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I initially only wanted to read Joan Didion's essays because she covers Los Angeles of the late 1960s, at the time of the Cielo Drive murders: 'I remember all of the day’s misinformation very clearly, and I also remember this, and wish I did not: I remember that no one was surprised'. But there are also a lot of other random subjects, from Hollywood to Hawaii, shopping malls and traffic systems, the Hoover Dam and piping water into the arid landscape of California. I enjoyed 'The White Album' and the personal details in her writing - 'I want you to understand exactly what you are getting: you are getting a woman who for some time now has felt radically separated from most of the ideas that seem to interest other people' - but did start skim-reading through some of the other articles. ( )
  AdonisGuilfoyle | Jun 5, 2020 |
I like that Joan Didion, like Tom Wolfe, never pretends to play it cool: she is stuffy, neurotic, often out of place. And I like narrative accounts of the sixties and seventies, always, but her efficiency alienates me. At times she managed to be so succinct, so precise, I was blown away, but most of the time (!) I just didn't care. Like Play It As It Lays this is a very, very dry read and one that alienated me more than it awed me. And no sense of humor whatsoever! Come on! ( )
  uncleflannery | May 16, 2020 |
A wonderful style, a cool voice, but one you trust to tell it how it is, whatever it is.
Over thirty years ago I read George Orwell’s non-fiction, his journalism, his books, his essays and even his letters. He would write about saucy seaside postcards or roses from Woolworths, and it didn’t matter that you had had no interest in the subject matter, but Orwell made the subject real in his writing.
Didion does that, although the voice is entirely different.
Well worth the time.

We tell ourselves stories in order to live.

We live entirely, especially if we are writers, by the imposition of a narrative line upon disparate images, by the “ideas” with which we have learned to freeze the shifting phantasmagoria which is our actual experience.

In what would probably be the middle of my life I wanted still to believe in the narrative and in the narrative’s intelligibility, but to know that one could change the sense with every cut was to begin to perceive the experience as rather more electrical than ethical.
( )
  CarltonC | Apr 22, 2020 |
My first exposure to Didion and its made an impression. This collection of essays is solid gold, if you aren't interested in things like water distribution in California or the Governor's Residence I guarantee after reading Didion you will be. Her writing is so well constructed and at the end of each essay I was left quite dumbstruck (except "Doris Lessing" that just seemed like a cheap shot) and her wit is absolutely scathing. If you are stuck for time at least read Part II: California Republic but I'd highly recommend all of it. ( )
  b.masonjudy | Apr 3, 2020 |
Generally, the writing is good and sometimes amazing. The mentality is mostly lame, occasionally touching.This is o.g. post-ironic material. The only thing missing is that its not an epic, so theres a limited amount of time for Didion to self-indulgently roll around in her cynicism. For this and the other entries labeled so :Post ironic tends to be smugly jaded, snide, obnoxiously cynical-ironic. Its post believing in anything (except maybe narcissism). Vacuous, hinting mockery is a common flavor, especially directed towards idealism. Typically epic. ( )
  reg_lt | Feb 7, 2020 |
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We tell ourselves stories in order to live. (The White Album)
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