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After Henry Paperback – April 27, 1993

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

One of America's premier essayists discusses Patty Hearst, the Central Park ogger, the 1988 Hollywood writers' strike, Reagan and Bush.
Copyright 1993 Reed Business Information, Inc.

From Library Journal

Eleven essays, mostly from the New York Review of Books and the New Yorker , are collected here in honor of Henry Robbins, an early, influential editor of Didion who died recently. The pieces zigzag through politics and the current events of the last decade, ranging from California to New York and taking aim at the power hungry, at sentimentality, at the manipulation of language. We see George Bush using a trip to Jordan as a "photo-op" to make him look like a man of action and reporters willing to do what politicans want in return for special privileges. The Bradley/Yaroslavsky mayoral race and the rape of a Central Park jogger lead Didion to discuss the characters of Los Angeles and New York City. Didion's journalistic essays are often considered her best writing, and this representative sample will be appreciated by readers who like newsworthy reading.
- Nancy Shires, East Carolina Univ., Greenville, N.C.
Copyright 1992 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Vintage; 1st Vintage International ed edition (April 27, 1993)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0679745394
  • ISBN-13: 978-0679745396
  • Product Dimensions: 5.2 x 0.7 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 9.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (8 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #181,904 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Joan Didion was born in California and lives in New York City. She is the author of five novels and seven previous books of nonfiction. Joan Didion's Where I Was From, Political Fictions, The Last Thing He Wanted, After Henry, Miami, Democracy, Salvador, A Book of Common Prayer, and Run River are available in Vintage paperback.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

24 of 25 people found the following review helpful By Stephen R. Laniel on October 6, 2006
Format: Paperback
It's interesting to read Joan Didion in some sort of rough chronological sequence, because I'm watching her mind and her writing develop as I go. Her earlier books, Slouching Towards Bethlehem and The White Album, are intensely personal affairs that use her own experiences to illustrate general features of 1960's America. They are brilliant pieces of work that have encouraged me to read everything else she's written, but they are also profoundly self-absorbed. Reading her earliest works, I feel like a therapist talking to someone who is stuck inside her own head; every time she tries to solve a problem, she finds some reason why she can't, and the chain of reasons ultimately leads in a circle back to her initial desperation. It's a good thing Prozac didn't exist then (only gin and hot water, and Dexedrine), or else we'd never have gotten works of such political and literary brilliance.

What's fascinating about those earlier books, and about After Henry (the most recent book of hers that I've read), is that there's at least one strong narrative line through all of them: they are books about the stories in which Americans enshroud the news. The White Album's title essay is famous for its opening line: "We tell ourselves stories in order to live." That's what appears in Bartlett's from The White Album, but it's basically vacuous without the rest of the paragraph -- a paragraph that summarizes, at an abstract level, every essay that she's written since (at least among the ones I've read):

"We tell ourselves stories in order to live. The princess is caged in the consulate. The man with the candy will lead the children into the sea.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Stacy Helton on July 16, 2012
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Joan Didion's AFTER HENRY is a collection of essays from mostly the late 1980s, most published in THE NEW YORKER and THE NEW YORK REVIEW OF BOOKS. SLOUCHING TOWARDS BETHLEHEM is one of my favorite essays and I so enjoy Didion's prose, subject matter and unvarnished take on a variety of topics. The most in-depth of the essays (sections divided into three sections: Washington, California and New York) concern the 1989 rape of the Central Park Jogger and subsequent trial, both media-driven and actual, as well as the 1988 presidential race, insomuch as it was presented by the media. She writes about the 1988 writer's strike as well as Patty Hearst, California Brush Fires, and political conventions. The subject matter is obviously less personal then her tremendous memoirs THE YEAR OF MAGICAL THINKING and BLUE NIGHTS, but the taut, observational writing is intact, as well as the knowledge that she brings to the theme. If you are a first time reader of Didion this is not the one I would recommend - start with BETHLEHEM and then read the memoirs; however, if you are a devotee this may be the one you don't know about - so allow the completest in you to check it out.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful By K. N. VINE VOICE on July 8, 2009
Format: Paperback
This book is a collection of Didion's essays from the late 1980s. It's organized into three parts: "Washington," "California," and "New York." Despite its geographical divisions, the book as a whole is rather uneven, tilting more toward West Coast themes. I wouldn't have thought of this as a weakness if the one essay devoted to New York themes didn't seem so wildly out of place here. Didion's piece on race and crime in the Big Apple is a distraction from an otherwise noirish narrative of life in Southern California since the 1960s.

Even the section on Beltway politics has a distinct California feel about it. Didion's essay on the 1988 presidential campaigns centers largely on Michael Dukakis's trip to Taft High School in the rural, central part of the state. Her observations on Nancy Reagan are also, predictably, informed by the Reagans' political roots in Orange County. In our age of 24/7 cable-news punditry, the experience of reading Didion's observations on politics is quaint but rewarding, a throwback to an older form of political commentary where critics were only beginning to come to grips with the mediated superficiality of American electoral politics.

"California" is by far the most compelling section of the book. The essay "Pacific Distances" threads together some insightful observations of West Coast living Didion wrote for the now-defunct *New West* magazine. "Down at City Hall" is an engaging profile of Los Angeles's iconic former mayor Tom Bradley. And "Times Mirror Square" is a bravura recollection of the history of the Los Angeles Times newspaper, set against the backdrop of Southern California's cycles of boom and bust throughout the twentieth century.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Rebecca Mugridge on March 31, 2014
Format: Paperback
This is a fascinating collection of essays by Joan Didion, who wrote many of them for the New York Review of Books and The New Yorker. If you like non-fiction and essays, you will like these well-written and thoughtful essays. The title essay is a wonderful tribute to one of the first editors that she worked with as an aspiring writer.
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