(Review) The White Album by Joan Didion

the white album

Publisher and Publication Date: Open Road Media. May 9, 2017, first published 1979.
Genre: Essays. Nonfiction.
Pages: 224.
Source: Library-Kindle edition.
Rating: Recommended.
Audience: Joan Didion fans, deep thinkers, and those who love to read essays on life.

Amazon link

I’ve read several of Joan Didion’s books. I’ve enjoyed reading all of them. Her perspective, and the ability to transpose onto paper what she sees, gives me the ability to be the extra person in the room.

 

The sections in the book are as follows:

I. The White Album
II. California Republic
III. Woman
IV. Sojourns
V. On the Morning After The Sixties

“The White Album” is the section of the book that was my favorite. It’s a mix of different stories. For example: a murder in Laurel Canyon, Linda Kasabian (former member of the Manson family and a key witness for the prosecution), The Doors, Janis Joplin, and Sybil Brand (known for improving jail conditions for women).

A quote that is a favorite among many readers:
“We tell ourselves stories in order to live.”
This is a deep quote, and it’s one that causes discussion. My first question is whether the story is real or fiction? A real story has depth, meaning, and teaching for not only the person who lived that particular story, but for the audience who reads or hears the story. For example: my dad’s memories of living through the Great Depression.
A fictional story is entertaining and on some level can have depth, meaning, and teaching, but it is not the same as hearing a person tell “their story”. An example is reading a historical fiction story about the Holocaust vs. reading or hearing the memoir of the Holocaust from a survivor.
Joan Didion encountered and had conversations with people of the 1960s and 1970s who made a mark in history. Some of these people like the music group, The Doors, had stirred a curiosity in me. I enjoyed reading Didion’s perspective on them, principally Jim Morrison.
A strong benefit of reading an essay is they’re short. An excellent reading choice before bedtime or commuting by train.

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(Review) Slouching Towards Bethlehem by Joan Didion

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Publisher and Publication Date: Open Road Media. 2017.
Genre: Essays.
Pages: 256.
Source: Library.
Rating: Excellent.

Amazon

Slouching Towards Bethlehem marks the third book I’ve read by Joan Didion. The other books are Blue Nights, South and West From a Notebook. I’ve a fourth book to read, from the library, The White Album.

The following link is a list of Didion’s books on Goodreads.

The official site for Joan Didion.

I’d seen the name Joan Didion. I knew she was an author. I’d not been motivated to read her books till a Netflix episode came on about her life. Now, she’s a favorite.

The essays were written in 1965, 1966, and 1967.

The book is in three parts.
Life Styles In The Golden Land.
Personals.
Seven Places Of The Mind.

I love essay writings. Not because they’re brief. But one of the goals is to hold my attention in order to share the candid perspective of an event.
What stands out to me the most about Didion’s writings is, it’s as if she is sitting next to me, and, telling me the story of what she’s seen and experienced. Her writings are personal. And they are straight-forward. She does not write with an agenda to prick my heart. She does not write with words to entice me to believe a certain way. She shares observations, conversations, and the thoughts and feelings she had while experiencing these memories. I love this!
My favorites from this book:
“Some Dreamers of the Golden Dream.” This is the story about love and death. I didn’t expect an essay on a woman accuses of murdering her husband. And, it’s the first essay in the book.
“John Wayne: A Love Song.” This essay is shared from the love of going to John Wayne films as a kid. Later, a quote stayed with her, “At the bend in the river where the cottonwoods grow.” This is a beautiful piece. It’s innocent and nostalgic and romantic.
In part two of the book. “Personals.” “On Keeping Notebook.” I saw a bit of her personality through this essay. She never been able to keep a diary, even though she is a writer. She wonders why she keeps a notebook and what it means. Is it about something else entirely?
“On Self-Respect.” This essay is my favorite. I love to think and ponder. This is a good essay to turn over in my mind.
A favorite quote:

To have that sense of one’s intrinsic worth which constitutes self-respect is potentially to have everything: the ability to discriminate, to love and to remain indifferent. To lack it is to be locked within oneself, paradoxically incapable of either love or indifference. Page 147.