“We tell ourselves stories in order to live.” So begins Joan Didion’s legendary essay collection The White Album, a landmark literary mosaic by one of American writing’s true greats illuminating in unerring prose subjects ranging from the Manson cult to the Black Panthers, from painter Georgia O’Keefe to the author’s own struggles with depression and anxiety in the late 1960s.
In “Good Citizens,” we meet the First Lady of California Nancy Reagan. Early in the title essay, we meet lead singer Jim Morrison of the pioneering L.A. rock band The Doors. We meet Oakland revolutionary Huey Newton, leaders of the woman’s movement, a veteran Malibu lifeguard, a celebrated orchid grower. These and many others come under Didion’s magnifying lens, her unsurpassed eye for the evocative detail. Locations—Hollywood and Berkeley; Hawaii and the Hoover Dam; the author’s hometown of Sacramento; Bogatá—are captured with the same uncanny vividness.
A flawlessly executed mix of people and place portraits with fresh-angle consideration of American cultural trends and movements, this deeply influential collection is also a breakthrough work of autobiography. Bravely, with remarkable precision, Didion charts her own interior journey during a tumultuous time: breakdown, recovery, and insights in a life whose roles included wife and mother of a young daughter along with her career as a journalist and novelist.
This first-ever digital edition introduces a new generation of readers to a contemporary master, a writer of whom reviewer John Leonard in The New York Times declared, “Nobody writes better English prose than Joan Didion.”
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About the Author
Joan Didion was born in Sacramento, CA in 1934, the daughter of an officer in the Army Air Corps. A shy, bookish child, Didion spent her teenage years typing out Ernest Hemingway stories to learn how sentences work. She attended the University of California, Berkeley where she got a degree in English and won an essay contest sponsored by Vogue magazine. The prize was a research assistant job at the magazine where Didion would work for more than a decade, eventually working her way up to an associate features editor. During this time she wrote for various other magazines and published her first novel, a tragic story about murder and betrayal, called RUN RIVER in 1963. The following year she married fellow writer John Gregory Dunne and the two moved to Los Angeles. The couple adopted a daughter whom they named Quintana Roo after the state in southern Mexico.
Didion’s first volume of essays, entitled SLOUCHING TOWARDS BETHLEHEM, was published in 1968 and was a collection of her feelings about the counterculture of the 1960s. The New York Times referred to it as “a rich display of some of the best prose written today in this country.” Her critically acclaimed second novel PLAY IT AS IT LAYS (1970) was about a fading starlet whose dissatisfaction with Hollywood leads her further and further away from reality. Herself engaging in the Hollywood lifestyle, Didion would go on to co-write four screenplays with her husband: PANIC IN NEEDLE PARK (1971), PLAY IT AS IT LAYS (1972, based on her novel), A STAR IS BORN, (1981) and UP CLOSE AND PERSONAL (1996). A second book of essays, THE WHITE ALBUM, was published in 1979 about life in the late 1960s and the 1970s.
Throughout the years Didion has written many more essay collections on subjects that have swayed her. Her fascination with America’s relations with its southern neighbors could be seen in SALVADOR (1983) and MIAMI (1987). POLITICAL FICTIONS (2001) focuses on her thoughts on American politics and government. Didion and her family moved back to New York in the 1980s, and her observations of the city can be read in AFTER HENRY (1992). She reflects on California’s past and present in her 2003 collection WHERE I WAS FROM.
Joan Didion’s husband died in 2003. Didion wrote about the grief she felt at Dunne’s death in THE YEAR OF MAGICAL THINKING (2005). The book has been called “a masterpiece of two genres: memoir and investigative journalism,” and won the National Book Award in 2005. Sadly, also in 2005, Didion lost Quintana Roo to acute pancreatitis. Didion wrote a memoir about the loss of her daughter called BLUE NIGHTS, which was published in 2011.
Didion’s work, which has been associated with the “New Journalism” movement, has been recognized on many occasions. She received the American Academy of Arts & Letters Gold Medal in Criticism and Belles Letters in 2005 and won the National Book Foundation’s Medal for Distinguished Contribution to American Letters in 2007. She is a member of the Academy of Arts & Letters, the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and The Berkeley Fellows. She received an honorary Doctor of Letters from Harvard University in 2009 and an honorary degree from Yale in 2011. In 2013, she was awarded a National Medal of Arts and Humanities by President Obama, and the PEN Center USA’s Lifetime Achievement Award.
Hometown:New York, New York
Date of Birth:December 5, 1934
Place of Birth:Sacramento, California
Education:B.A., University of California at Berkeley, 1956
Table of Contents
I. THE WHITE ALBUM
The White Album
II. CALIFORNIA REPUBLIC
James Pike, American
Notes Toward a Dreampolitik
The Women's Movement
In the Islands
On the Road
On the Mall
At the Dam
V. ON THE MORNING AFTER THE SIXTIES
On the Morning After the Sixties
Quiet Days in Malibu
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
Joan Didion is just plain old amazing! She has chronicled American life for decades through her essays and journalistic endeavors. The White Album perfectly captures a feeling and style that is completely Didion's. The connections and observations she makes are dead-on. Highly recommended!