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Where I Was From Paperback – September 14, 2004
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From Publishers Weekly
Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.
From The New Yorker
Copyright © 2005 The New Yorker --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.
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Top Customer Reviews
I can't think of any writer could do a better job than Didion at examining the weird admixture of passion and ambivalence that a native Californian may have for her state. I share it, and I admire this book especially because I know the terrain she dissects and lays bare. Her spare prose is a joy to read.
Anyway, I've had a lifetime spent drinking in the reality that is California. Reading Joan Didion's book has furthered and edified my knowledge, thoughts, and intuitions of this region. Reviewers who think she is upset or complaining are missing the point. Didion delves deep and helps people like me fill in some blanks to this fascinating human comedy.
No one could possibly achieve a personal portrait of California and include every iconic landmark or quirk. The film industry does not figure into this, LA's waterworks is not here. This is not Steinbeck's California, or Kerouac's or Dashiell Hammett's. It is, however, the landscape of Frank Norris's THE OCTOPUS, Jack London's VALLEY OF THE MOON, Faulkner's short story, "Golden Land," and Henry George's prescient essay, "What the Railroad Will Bring Us," to which Didion brings a close reading. The settling of California was made possible by the government and the sense of entitlement still resounds, as does the seemingly contradictory rugged pioneer individualism that claims the right to do as one pleases without strings attached. There is a pioneer code, "kill the rattlesnake," meaning to act in the interest of the greater good so others are not hurt, but there is also the overwhelming theme of development, the meaning of which Didion finds in the act of selling the family cemetery, along with the ranch.Read more ›
Where I Was From circumvents this dilemma. A native California has decided to tell us some of the secrets of the place: how it has shaped its people and how they in turn have shaped it. One of Didion's revelations is that California has enormous amounts of agricultural land and yet very few Californians call themselves "farmers". Golden State land owners treat their land purely as a commodity and do not have the visceral attachment to the land itself that is found in farmers in the rest of the country. You see how a lot of other things could cascade from this basic difference between Californians and everyone else.
Didion's long discourse on the Spur Posse of Lakewood at first seemed like a digression. But it soon became clear that she sees the nature of the Lakewood community to be a logical latter-day expression of the California socio-historical phenomenon. Lakewood was built only to provide a place for aerospace workers to live. It is housing, not a real community. It is planned rootlessness. And this has consequences.
By relating some of her own family history, Didion reminds us that all Californians are from somewhere else and so must have been more like the rest of us at some point. She suggests that it was the isolation of being on the far side of the Sierras in a land of enormous natural wealth that unmoored and, to some extent, unhinged Californians and their culture. I believe her.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
I have a jillion of these things to write, I got way behind, so just look at the star rating, the title and go with that. Sincerely, TinaPublished 2 months ago by Tina L. Dufrene
I am floored, entranced and deeply saddened reading this book. California history has never been told to the East and my own Midwestern region, and Joan Didion illuminates the... Read morePublished 3 months ago by Louise Venden
I always appreciate Joan Didion ' s ability to put such concise language to her interior experience. Insightful and generated a brisk book group discussion.Published 3 months ago by Susan Holtz
The book met and exceeded my expectations. It was fascinating, beautifully researched, quite moving but also quite funny, with Joan Didion's signature dry wit. Read morePublished 4 months ago by katherine G. Miller
It took a long time to get engaged in the stories. Some are interesting, but honestly it's best read in bits here and there, because I get annoyed by Didion after too many pages. Read morePublished 7 months ago by Amazon Customer
CONSUMMATE WRITER. YOU MAY NOT AGREE WITH HER. YOU WILL NEVER FORGET HER. GIFTEDPublished 8 months ago by Boyce R. Williams Jr.
I had heard of Joan Didion—her reputation as a giant of modern American literature—and had read an interview of her that made me interested in reading some of her work. Read morePublished 8 months ago by William D. Hastings
Interesting and personal about California's history and development from ca. 1850 to ca. 2000Published 8 months ago by Katarina Stubelius Ohlsson