Another not-sure-what-day-I-actually-finished-this. I bought this and Slouching Towards Bethlehem as pity-buys -- you know, that thing when you're inAnother not-sure-what-day-I-actually-finished-this. I bought this and Slouching Towards Bethlehem as pity-buys -- you know, that thing when you're in an independent bookstore, and there's nothing you really want, but you feel badly and want to support them, so you just pick something that's used and under $3? Anyway, I do that kind of a lot. I remembered that in college a writing professor had recommended Bethlehem to me, and that I'd read some of the essays in it and liked it. And in recent years, as she's come into the limelight again with her, for lack of a better term, grief memoirs, I've found myself once again kind of fascinated by Joan Didion.
And damn The White Album is good. The titular essay grabs you and just will haunt you, like every part of it -- the now-forgotten news items, the still-talked-about events, the bits and pieces of Didion's own life. I have also been watching a lot of Dragnet lately (hell yeah streaming Netflix) which has really gotten me fixated on Los Angeles in the late 1960s, which is when most of these pieces either are about and/or were written. This is not a time I've ever really been terribly interested in (cue rant about how baby boomers, Woodstock, the Haight, etc. are not that interesting). But '60s LA and '60s San Francisco are two very, very different places. '60s LA sounds less like Woodstock and more like Altamont, and that really comes through here. It's hard to shake....more
This is a hard one to rate, because the best pieces are so good, but there are weaker ones, and they tend toward the judgmental and pedantic. ElementsThis is a hard one to rate, because the best pieces are so good, but there are weaker ones, and they tend toward the judgmental and pedantic. Elements of "Goodbye to All That" have stuck with me, hard, since I first read it more than ten years ago, and much of it resonates all the more now that I'm older and have made the same NY to CA move (though other parts don't jibe as much for me -- I had a lot more trouble and a lot less wonder I think when I lived in NYC). And of course, there's the title piece. Even though I prefer her SoCal writing to her NorCal, that's a tough one to deny. In all though, I was surprised to find that on the whole, I think I liked The White Album better.
(I should mention also though that I have a much cuter edition of this -- older paperback with vaguely psychedelic butterfly motifs. Also should mention I'm aware this isn't much of a review, but I'm tired.)...more
So when I stumbled across this book, I didn't realize that it's pretty rare -- just knew that I had always wanted to read it. No idea why it's out ofSo when I stumbled across this book, I didn't realize that it's pretty rare -- just knew that I had always wanted to read it. No idea why it's out of print, given that a) Cameron Crowe's only gotten more famous b) people have nostalgia for everything from the late 1970s/early 1980s and c) anything with teenagers in it seems to sell.
Anyway. I've always enjoyed this movie, but the book is a tremendous improvement. A few of the characters in the movie's parts are cut down considerably, and/or simplified, so they feel more real in the book (oh wait, and they ARE REAL, as the preface makes clear). Having more of the story also explains parts of the movie that make less sense (why would Linda be friends with Stacy in the first place?). A broad range of minor characters gives it more texture. One of the most interesting things is that the movie appears to contain virtually no dialogue that is not included in the book, and until it has to wrap up with a Hollywood ending, almost no scenes that are not from the book.
Another reason I liked the book better/was surprised it's out of print/am now worried they'll try to remake the movie/realize thinking about it more they definitely won't: The kids are a lot wilder in the book. Way more sex, and LOTS of drugs -- anyone who thinks today's thirteen-year-olds just discovered all this stuff and that kids were way more naive 30 years ago is in for a shock. What interested me though is that the girls are way more into this stuff than the boys -- they're light-years ahead of the male characters in terms of what they're up to, but also in terms of maturity and how they handle it all. This makes some aspects of the book more poignant, and others more surprising. Comparing it to the movie, it's interesting to see how they reverted to traditional gender roles (naive girls and manipulative boys) for the Hollywood version.
The last reason I really enjoyed this book is more personal -- I didn't realize it at the time, but it turns out when I first moved to San Diego I lived down the street from "Ridgemont High" (and even nearer to a couple of the fast-food establishments where Brad Hamilton worked). Though Crowe tries to throw readers off with his broader geography of California, his description of the area is extremely specific right down to the Del Taco nearest the school.
Though obviously he's a journalist and not an ethnographer, it would have been interesting to see a bit more of Crowe in the book -- he explains how he did what was more or less participant observation in the preface to the book, but then he doesn't appear anywhere else within the text. We never see characters react to him, so it's never clear what events he witnessed firsthand and which he heard about later (some are obvious, but for others who knows). In any event, that's not even a complaint, just would make the book even more interesting. As it is, it reads like a completely clear-eyed, virtually unembellished story of high school life. I wonder what the real people behind those characters think of it now....more
This was really good, which wasn't surprising. It was pretty upsetting, too, which was a little surprising -- mostly though just because usually whenThis was really good, which wasn't surprising. It was pretty upsetting, too, which was a little surprising -- mostly though just because usually when I read books that scare me I keep myself occupied by thinking "Don't worry, this isn't real." But in this one every time something awful happened, I'd think that, and then be like, "Oh snap, wait, this all really happened!" Sigh... a couple of sleepless nights but I made it through....more