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The White Album
Joan Didion
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The White Album

4.21  ·  Rating Details  ·  7,840 Ratings  ·  513 Reviews
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 Black 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 c ...more
Published (first published 1979)
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Jul 07, 2015 Nancy rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The White Album was required reading for my American Experience class. I didn't love the book at first, but after a couple of essays, Didion's quiet style started to grow on me. This collection is a revealing narrative of events that occurred in the 1960's and 1970's. It examines the lives of famous and infamous people and places (Charles Manson, Ramón Novarro, the Hoover Dam, Huey Newton, the California freeway, Bogotá, Doris Lessing, and others). Didion gives candid and thoughtful snapshots of ...more
Apr 29, 2011 Greg rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
In one essay Joan Didion mentions Grace Cathedral Park in San Francisco. I don't know anything about the cathedral or the park except that it's the name and setting for one of my all-time favorite songs. My love for Mark Kozelek and the Red House Painters is marred a bit by what an asshole he was when I saw Red House Painters live. How does someone write such great songs and act like such a monumental douche (which apparently is his normal live persona, he yells at the audience, plays rambling t ...more
Feb 29, 2016 Darwin8u rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: aere-perennius, 2015
“We tell ourselves stories in order to live... We look for the sermon in the suicide, for the social or moral lesson in the murder of five. We interpret what we see, select the most workable of the multiple choices. 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.”
- Joan Didion, The White Album


I wish I could dance like Fred A
Jul 31, 2014 Eric rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
If I had started with The White Album instead of Slouching Toward Bethlehem I might have been spared two years of blithely embarrassing myself with statements like: “Joan Didion? She’s ok.” Actually she’s amazing. The rhythms of her self-dramatization in Slouching were too arch for my taste, or perhaps for my mood. The White Album must be different, or I must have changed, because I love the persona that emerges from its rhythms. She’s brooding, migrainous, in the first essay paranoid, yet essen ...more
Aug 17, 2015 Brian rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2015_sow
Reading Didion’s essays is not unlike unearthing a time capsule you didn’t know existed from a parallel universe that appears earthlike. Sure, there are words like California and feminism and Malibu – but Didion does things to those familiar events and locales that changes them into an unique vision, a Didionism.

Whether we’re standing with her on Oak Street below the Black Panthers’ HQ receiving a visual pat-down, retracing author James Jones’ steps along the army barracks in Honolulu or mesmer
John Doe
Mar 08, 2013 John Doe rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: reviewed
Didion doesn't buy into all of that collectivist angst crap, but she is not without her own strange eccentricities. For example, when people give her Scientology books she puts them in a drawer instead of throwing them away because she wants to keep them but she doesn't want anyone to see them on her bookshelf and get the wrong idea, etc. Her view of the 1960s is a skeptical one. She is skeptical of the Black Panther party and of the Women's Movement. She is skeptical of "The Revolution" and of ...more
Apr 04, 2012 Geoff rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I didn’t love these essays until about the midpoint, “The Women’s Movement”, a devastatingly good piece about the watering-down of feminism in mid-century America, about the heartbreaking shift of a vitally important revolutionary movement as it lost touch with its ideological base and became ever more a vehicle appropriated by a leisure class, its goals moving away from seeking the possibility for an individual to create their own unique destiny unfettered by traditional obstacles and bias, and ...more
Julie Ehlers
As was the case with Joan Didion's Slouching Towards Bethlehem, certain aspects of The White Album seem hopelessly dated. I have no idea who Bishop James Pike is, for instance, and now that I've read about him I still don't really care. But another aspect of this collection irked me even more: Didion's all-encompassing weariness, her mild derision for seemingly everything and everyone with whom she crosses paths. Even in her younger years, did Joan Didion ever get excited about anything, ever, e ...more
This undersung little book rates so highly with me that it very nearly earns my vote for the best writing by any modern-day American woman author. Period. [I would make it my #1 choice, but that honor goes to horror-authoress Shirley Jackson.] If we focus only on 20c. American nonfiction ; then it is certainly my #1 favorite title--beating out all works by all other females, and also all males (David McCullough, Norman Mailer, Hunter Thompson, Tom Wolfe, Gore Vidal, etc) as well. Did you hear w ...more
orsodimondo (a zonzo)
C’è chi trova lo stile di Joan Didion irritante e artificioso, e la accusa di prendersi troppo sul serio, di mettersi sempre al centro della narrazione.
Io no.
A me piace la sua enfasi, le sue ripetizioni, il suo cominciare e finire periodi consecutivi con frasi identiche, l’uso che fa della congiunzione 'e' (come direbbe Martin Amis, batte perfino una canzone di Leonard Cohen), il suo ritmo magnetico, la sua melodia, la sua ricerca di un’eco, il suo incedere a colp
Mind the Book
What I love: slå mig ner på ett kafé och sträckläsa en bok.

Inleds med de bevingade orden "We tell ourselves stories in order to live".

Lästips från detta radioprogram
May 25, 2008 David rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
I've always thought that I was somehow naïve to some sort of greater truth about reality, or at least the United States, or at least California, because I had never read anything by Joan Didion. Friends and acquaintances and strangers spoke of her with a sort of ineloquent awe as if their own descriptions could never match her lucid prose or mental acuity.

Now that I have actually read her own words I want to know, what is all the fuss about? I find Barbara Grizzutti Harrison's 1980 essay much mo
Nellie Airoldi
Dec 15, 2015 Nellie Airoldi rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Vorrei immaginare la Joan Didion dei saggi raccolti inVerso Betlemme e in The White Album con i capelli arruffati, che non vuole richiedere alla reception che ore sono e che quindi si rimette a testa bassa sulla propria macchina da scrivere, immergendosi nel suo lavoro come se non ci fosse né spazio né tempo, tanto che nel silenzio della stanza, invece delle lancette dell’orologio, sono i ticchettii della sua macchina da scrivere a scandire il tempo. Inutile aggiungere che è di questa Joan Didio ...more
Dec 23, 2015 Sara rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Un martedì mattina a casa sua | La graziosa Nancy Reagan, allora moglie del governatore della California, era in piedi nella sala da pranzo della sua casa in affitto sulla Quarantacinquesima Strada di Sacramento, e ascoltava un giornalista televisivo che le spiegava cosa voleva fare. Ascoltava attentamente. Nancy Reagan è un'ascoltatrice molto attenta. La troupe televisiva voleva osservarla, disse il giornalista, mentre faceva esattamente quello che avrebbe fatto di solito un martedì mattina a c ...more
Oct 15, 2011 christa rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Dear Shevaun,

You left a self-addressed envelope, the size of a note card, in the Duluth Public Library’s copy of “The White Album,” a collection of essays by Joan Didion. Your name as both the sender and receiver. Both address labels indicate an association with the University of Florida. One is decorated with a UF, the other a cartoonish profile of a cartoon gator, its snout hanging out of a decorative oval. Neither label is very artistic minded, not the finest work of a graphic designer. I do
Sentimental Surrealist
I like this more than the better-known Slouching Towards Bethlehem, and it's quite possibly my favorite Didion period. Slouching revealed her terrific intelligence and acerbic tone, but the White Album is the next step after that. Here, she also reveals bits of her personality, and not just the skeptic that bleeds through everything she does: you get a sense of her odd obsessions that no one else has, told with self-deprecating wit; her dry sense of humor; and a little vulnerability, as in her f ...more
Mar 16, 2013 Myles rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
(4.3/5.0) Hawaii + Shopping Malls + Los Angeles + Nonchalant Depictions of Violence and Excess; What this woman was born to write about.
Rick Slane
Essays from the late 1960's to the late 1970's. I skipped some of them.
John Spillane
I liked the last couple pages of Didion's Play It As It Lays enough to bounce it from 2 to 4 stars so I think she has skill and a keen sense of what works and what doesn't. 70% of this is hardcore also rans from what I can only assume must be a great Slouching Towards Bethlehem; I would be shocked if she felt otherwise. I was begrudgingly going to bump this from 2.5 to 3.0 until I saw the average rating and all the rave reviews.

There are pieces that really shine; the orchid bit and the entire Wo
Sep 15, 2012 David rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: read-2012
Sharp essay collection. Didion’s got a keen eye and ear. She cuts through lazy assumptions about various groups and flows of the 60s/70s American scene. That period makes it, too, a fascinating time capsule.

Despite her usually sure grip, as with any collection, there are a few misses along the way. She’s a little defensive of some of her rich Hollywood friends, a little too “you just wouldn’t understand” here and there. There’s also a strange reactionary strain at times, as when she carps about
A fine example of juxtaposing public cultural events with personal experiences, a kind of journalism Didion practically invented (and Hunter Thompson took over the top). By putting her reflections on political and social events in the context of her interests and activities at the time, the social impacts of the events are made more particular in an intimate way. But is their significance made more meaningful or universal with such a method? I couldnt help wondering that with each essay Didion d ...more
Nov 29, 2007 Baiocco rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: non-believers, writers, feelers
Shelves: essays
It must say something that even though I'm shit-stuffed full after two and a half rounds of Thanksgiving plates of turkey and sides I feel compelled to review a book of essays I last read 6 years ago? That something may be: I don't have a girlfriend right now. Yes, the judges are willing to accept that as a correct answer. But they will also accept 'The White Album is a great book and Joan Didion is a great writer. And that answer is way easier for my ego to swallow so we're going to go with it. ...more
Mar 07, 2015 AC rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 1968
The title essay is wonderful..., a must read for Didion fans.
Marco Palagi
Aspettavo di leggere questo libro da tempo, dopo averlo letto in versione originale un paio di anni fa, perché appassionato e curioso di (ri)leggere della California e di quell'America degli anni '60 e '70 che tanto amo e dalla quale provengono alcuni dei più grandi narratori del ventesimo secolo.
Il Saggiatore finalmente fa uscire la versione italiana di questo reportage giornalistico della celebre Joan Didion, la quale indaga e scruta nei meandri più nascosti della cultura, degli idoli, della v
David Fulmer
Nov 20, 2014 David Fulmer rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is a collection of brilliant, eloquent, and endlessly fascinating essays by an author rightly celebrated as one of the finest essayist and stylist of her time. Joan Didion’s discerning and probing attention is here focused on everything from the Hoover Dam to orchids to traffic in Southern California and the results are uniformly insightful. Among the best pieces are ones about Los Angeles which she dissects in time and space, offering a perspective on the Hollywood film industry which bypa ...more
Didion would go to the barricades, if she thought it would change anything. One of those sharply intelligent bourgeois cocktail party guests who can report on their own kind with chilling clarity while guzzling inhuman amounts of depressants in both liquid and pill form, and then suddenly switch to fascinating descriptions of California's water works, Didion is someone whose company I would greatly enjoy for brief periods. When she tries to digest "the Sixties," things go a little haywire. Didio ...more
Jan 22, 2015 Robert rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I'd read some Joan Didion in college (probably from Slouching towards Bethlehem, I'm guessing?), and I remember liking her. She's incredibly smart, and a really great writer. I found quite a few of the essays in this collection to be less than compelling, though.

The title piece was very good, and occasionally very moving, but also interspersed with some odd, name-droppy segments. Am I supposed to be impressed that you were so bored by hanging out with the Doors and meeting Jim Morrison? Parts o
M. Sarki
Oct 31, 2012 M. Sarki rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Loved most of what I read, which was the majority of the book, but some of it was of no interest to me. However, her writing is magnificent. I loved the titled essay and it was heartwarming to again revisit the 60's and early 70's with Joan Didion as my guide. Her picture on the back of the hardcover jacket is so flattering of her. Smart woman. I also thoroughly enjoyed her essay on migraine headaches and how she learned to deal with them.
David B
Aug 24, 2014 David B rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Joan Didion's essays are sharply observed and very personal. She informs us of her fragile mental state in the very first essay, in which she describes a pervasive sense of detachment that she felt from the world. She then goes on to deliver a collection of well-written profiles on personalities, places, and the concerns of the time (late 60s-early 70s). Didion inserts herself and her personal issues into these pieces on ocassion, which no doubt contributes to the accusation by some that she is ...more
Apr 07, 2014 katie rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: bookclub, read_14, essays
Not every essay holds up 30+ years later, certainly the moving waves of feminism and changes in the way we think about privilege make some ideas and "insights" especially cringe-worthy and dated. But that's not unexpected for essays from the past. What does hold up incredibly well is the writing-Didion writes descriptions that awe with their intuitive-seeming accuracy and manages to reflect the sort of dreamy sense of unreality that seems to have been the hallmark of the part of culture she was ...more
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Joan Didion was born in California and lives in New York City. She's best known for her novels and her literary journalism.

Her novels and essays explore the disintegration of American morals and cultural chaos, where the overriding theme is individual and social fragmentation. A sense of anxiety or dread permeates much of her work.
More about Joan Didion...

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“We tell ourselves stories in order to live.” 394 likes
“We tell ourselves stories in order to live...We look for the sermon in the suicide, for the social or moral lesson in the murder of five. We interpret what we see, select the most workable of the multiple choices. 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.” 236 likes
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