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We Tell Ourselves Stories in Order to Live: Collected Nonfiction (Everyman's Library) Hardcover – October 17, 2006

4.7 out of 5 stars 28 customer reviews

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  • We Tell Ourselves Stories in Order to Live: Collected Nonfiction (Everyman's Library)
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Editorial Reviews

Review

“[Didion’s is] one of the most recognizable—and brilliant—literary styles to emerge in America during the past four decades . . . [She is] a great American writer.”
New York Times Book Review

“One beautiful sentence follows another . . . Didion has remained a clearheaded and original writer all her long life.”
Newsweek

“Her intelligence is as honed as ever . . . Her vision is ice-water clear . . . Didion has captured the mood of America.”
New York Times

“Many of us have tried, and failed, to master [Didion’s] gift for the single ordinary deflating word, the word that spins an otherwise flat sentence through five degrees of irony. But her sentences could only be hers.”
Chicago Tribune

“I have been trying forever to figure out why [Didion’s] sentences are better than mine or yours . . . Something about [their] cadence. They come at you, if not from ambush, then in gnomic haikus, ice pick laser beams, or waves. Even the space on the page around these sentences is more interesting than it ought to be, as if to square a sandbox for a Sphinx.”
—from the Introduction by John Leonard

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.
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 1160 pages
  • Publisher: Everyman's Library; 1st edition (October 17, 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0307264874
  • ISBN-13: 978-0307264879
  • Product Dimensions: 5.2 x 2 x 8.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (28 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #29,965 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

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
This book came up while I was buying "Political Fictions" for a friend of mine, and I was worried I'd missed something, but actually it's every nonfiction book she's written up through 2003. I've savored every word of Didion's nonfiction since reading "Goodbye To All That" (the final essay of Slouching Toward Bethlehem) in a nonfiction class in college , and she's never let me down. It's not simply that Didion is one of our greatest writers, its that her style is so incisive and unforgettable because she works with only a whisper of the incredible effort and vision she creates, she undoes the reader with observations that don't appear to be observations - she makes her conclusions about culture, nature, and humanity the only conclusions, and she can devastate, over and over again, in a single sentence. It's crazy to think of all of the nonfiction books I've bought of hers fitting concisely into under 1200 pages, but how lucky for the people that own this book to be able to do what took me years to do - track down each piece and appreciate it separately (except for the uber-successful Year of Magical Thinking, which still requires its own purchase). I hope readers take the time to appreciate the differences in each work, to consider how time and how Didion's consciousness adjusted from one book to the next, but the important thing is that she continue to be read and enjoyed. Here, you can read a piece like "Goodbye to All That," or "Quiet Days In Malibu," or that devastating final chapter of Where I Was From to hear that beautiful, plaintive, liberating sad voice, and then follow it up with Salvador or "In The Realm of the Fisher King" or "Vichy Washington" and appreciate a cunning that rips into politics and the culture at large.Read more ›
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Format: Hardcover
I had known about Joan Didion for some time before I finally read this omnibus collection of her work. I had come across a few of her essays in various anthologies and composition textbooks (usually the one on keeping a notebook, the dramatic discussion on the Santa Ana winds, or the piece on Hawaii from The White Album), and had always heard that she writes about California better than anybody except perhaps John Steinbeck. With this collection, I found I had in my hands an extremely intense body of work, so I'd finish one collection of essays and then return to read the next one after I'd spent some time away reading other authors. It took over a year of putting this book down and then returning to it, but now I'm done, and it's an emotionally exhausting but tremendously rewarding experience to have read her entire non-fiction output.

The first thing I noticed, once I had read just a few of her essays one after the other, was how original--and how widely imitated--her writing style is. I realized I'd been reading Didionesque reportage in the NY Times, The New Yorker, The Atlantic, The NY Review of Books, Harpers, The New Republic etc. for years and had never known it. All the stylistic devices--the opening, all-encapsulating yet at first glance maddeningly indirect anecdote, the jump cut narrative technique that inevitably circles back to a single arresting incident or image, the devastating short-long sentence juxtapositions etc.--are there from the beginning. The thing is, she started it all and has remained the central practitioner of the art. It's as if the most highly accomplished of short story writers has taken to reportage of current and cultural events with a literary vengeance, which is what I suppose that over-used term the "New Journalism" refers to.
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Format: Hardcover
Joan Didion is the one writer I can return to again and again. I marvel at each paragraph, each sentence. Her voice is unique and though she has many imitators she has no equal. I still regularly reread The White Album which I discovered as a teenager over 20 years ago. This it a beautiful edition and a wonderful collection.
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Format: Hardcover
I checked this out from our local library the other day and it turned out to be a serendipitous find. I've read some of Didion's work previously of which _The Year of the Magical Thinking_ was the most recent.

This compilation was actually fun to read. My favourite pieces were the ones that focused on California or Southern California, respectively. She is a gifted storyteller.

I couldn't help but feel a keen sense of sadness for her with the noted timeline of her life (and historical moments, too). She lost both her parents, then her spouse and two years later her daughter.

I would suggest this book to others. It's a real treasure.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Joan wrote her best when she wrote about California. She's in a league of her own. She writes about California the way it is,the strangest foriegn country in the nation. She gets at the psychic truth of her subject, which is no small thing. One of the very few true writers,ever.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I only became aware of Joan Didion after hearing about her bestseller, The Year of Magical Thinking, which I got, and found absolutely touching. When I came across this compilation, I thought I'd give it a try...I wasn't disappointed...each of the essays/ articles have something to offer, and Didion is truly a gifted writer. I'm only sorry that I had missed out on such a talented author before finding her on a bestseller list.
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