- Paperback: 240 pages
- Publisher: Vintage; Reprint edition (September 14, 2004)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0679752862
- ISBN-13: 978-0679752868
- Product Dimensions: 5.2 x 0.6 x 8 inches
- Shipping Weight: 8.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 61 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #88,999 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Where I Was From Paperback – September 14, 2004
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“Compelling. . . . A love song to the place where her family has lived for generations, but a love song full of questions and doubts.” –Michiko Kakutani, The New York Times“An arresting amalgam of memoir and historical timeline. . . . Exquisitely crafted, as subtle as the slow waking from a pleasant dream.” –The Baltimore Sun“One beautiful sentence follows another. . . . This is a book about history, about what we learn from genealogy and history books, novels and old newspapers, and how we square all that with what we see around us. . . . Didion has remained a clearheaded and original writer all her long life.” –Malcolm Jones, Newsweek“Succinct and quite beautiful. . . . Its rewards are many. If anyone needs further confirmation that she is one of the finest essayists currently at work, this book will nail it.” –The Seattle Times/Post Intelligencer“One of the most recognizable–and brilliant–literary styles to emerge in America during the past four decades. . . . [Didion is] a great American writer.” –The New York Times Book Review “Didion has written a brave little book . . . a fine book that must be read with as much care it was written. . . . [Didion is] an implacably honest writer.” –Jonathan Yardley, Washington Post“Valediction and elegy alike, Where I Was From is a storm-tossed book. Its history is dense . . . its prose sharp, direct and chiseled.” –The Los Angeles Times Book Review“Eloquent, spare, and rendered without sentiment.” –Boston Globe“[Didion is] a latter-day Walt Whitman, singing of America by singing of herself.” –Slate.com “Joan Didion is a brilliant explicator of the American political and cultural consciousness.” –Rocky Mountain News“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.” –Michael Gorra, Chicago Tribune“[A] fascinating, informative, obscure–and yes, moving–little book.” –San Jose Mercury News“A bracing mix of personal and public history.” –Benjamin Kunkel, Newsday“Odd, elliptical and ultimately revealing. . . . Didion discovers the exact locus where geography and personal journey intersect, and has produced a work as compelling and enigmatic as its subjects.” –Time Out New York“Where I Was From is a beautifully written and intensely personal tome. . . . One of the country’s most intelligent writers . . . Ms. Didion’s prose is like a razor cutting straight to the bone.” –New York Sun“[Didion's] appraisal is cool, her eye is sharp, and her turn of phrase is wicked.” –Time“How odd that bad news can be so much fun to read. Her essays are as sinewy as her novels, written in the same ice-pick/laser-beam prose.” –Harper’s
From the Inside Flap
In her moving and insightful new book, Joan Didion reassesses parts of her life, her work, her history and ours. A native Californian, Didion applies her scalpel-like intelligence to the state's ethic of ruthless self-sufficiency in order to examine that ethic's often tenuous relationship to reality.
Combining history and reportage, memoir and literary criticism, Where I Was From" explores California's romances with land and water; its unacknowledged debts to railroads, aerospace, and big government; the disjunction between its code of individualism and its fetish for prisons. Whether she is writing about her pioneer ancestors or privileged sexual predators, robber barons or writers (not excluding herself), Didion is an unparalleled observer, and her book is at once intellectually provocative and deeply personal.
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The Crossing: Are you interested in the pioneers and the westward movement in the 1800s? This book brings intimate stories of particular families (including Didion's) to life, but in the CONTEXT of the larger move West, what it signifies, and how it has shaped the character of California and its residents TODAY. "The crossing" is the title Didion gives to what had to be chucked without a backward glance, to "make it to the pass in time before winter." California, she tells us, was flooded by people, not JUST the Donner party, who had to learn to let go and cast their pasts and cherished possessions and even faltering children and parents to the winds, the prairie, to unmarked graves, to the Dust Bowl - and move forward.
Why is California what it Is? Are you interested in the railroads, urban sprawl, the loss of wetland, the missing "old California" (which may have been an illusion to start with), the unemployed and homeless, the loss of funding for education, the millions occupying our prisons, the budget crisis in Sacramento, the water wars, agribusiness, and.... how all this ties together and links to the pioneers and the gold rush? Nothing is accidental, says Didion. It is the same "movie" replayed over and over. We have been careless in the way of the Great Gatsby, here in this state, breaking things, but with a spirit of optimism and good will that may save us after all. This book is profound and sad, half poetry, half NPR, half Men to Match my Mountains, and I have run out of halves!
I wish you the pleasure of finding this book, reading it, and perhaps being inspired to write a memoire of a similar sort: putting personal lives into the larger historical context. We need more of this!!!
Loved reading about her family history and the history of other pioneers. Despite California's reputation as a state of free-thinkers and rugged individualists, it's actually a state based on land-grabbing, borrowed water, borrowed time and heavily subsidized industries.
(I realize the same could be said of many other places.)
I think most natives of California would appreciate this perspective, and those who aren't from the Golden State will also find something of interest because her descriptions of how places change over time are so poignant.