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The White Album Hardcover – June 19, 1979

4.5 out of 5 stars 54 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Review

"All of the essays manifest not only [Didion's] intelligence but an instinct for details that continue to emit pulsations in the reader's memory and a style that is spare, subtly musical in its phrasing and exact. Add to these her highly vulnerable sense of herself, and the result is a voice like no other in contemporary journalism."--Robert Towers, The New York Times Book Review

"Didion manges to make the sorry stuff of troubled times (bike movies, for instance, and Bishop James Pike) as interesting and suggestive as the monuments that win her dazzled admiration (Georgia O'Keeffe, the Hoover Dam, the mountains around Bogota) . . . A timely and elegant collection."--The New Yorker

"Didion is an original journalistic talent who can strike at the heart, or the absurdity, of a matter in our contemporary wasteland with quick, graceful strokes."--The San Francisco Chronicle
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About the Author

Joan Didion is the author of five novels and six works of nonfiction: Slouching Towards Bethlehem, The White Album, Miami, Salvador, After Henry, and Political Fictions. She lives in New York City.
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 222 pages
  • Publisher: Simon & Schuster; 1st edition (June 19, 1979)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0671226851
  • ISBN-13: 978-0671226855
  • Product Dimensions: 10.7 x 5.8 x 1.1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 14.4 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (54 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #195,728 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By R. Walker on May 1, 2001
Format: Paperback
The White Album was published in 1979, and most of the material here is from the 1970s. Even so, the book is at least as much about the 1960s as is Slouching Towards Bethlehem. Like that book, this is a collection of essays from various publications, plus some previously unpublished material. It's a mixed bag. The title piece is quite strong, as is "On The Morning After The Sixties," proving, perhaps, that the 1960s really were Didion's one true subject. There's other good stuff here, too, and the book is actually sort of underrated, since so many observers rate it a poor second to Slouching Towards Bethlehem. But the Didion style is actually quite strong in this volume, sharply observed, carefully written, personal without being confessional, and always flirting with detachment but not quite achieving it. Obviously some people just can't stand Didion's essays, and this book would hardly change their mind; but if you're open to her style, this is worth reading.
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Format: Paperback
Joan Didion always seems to look out at you from her book jackets in a straightforward, level-headed way, yet her readers will know she has a somewhat cockeyed view of life. Very Californian, as she quotes Bernard De Voto,"'The West begins, where the average annual rainfall drops below twenty inches." But hardly sunny, she's dark,dark: she has made the literature of nervous breakdown her own. We saw it in Slouching Towards Bethlehem: Essays (FSG Classics); Play It As It Lays: A Novel; and A Book of Common Prayer; as in "The White Album," the book at hand here; essays first collected and published in 1979. She eyes the 1960s, and California, quite closely; she sketches the 1960's so well, in fact, she might almost have imaginatively invented them. It's all here, the Manson family, the Black Panthers, the historic doings at the University of California, Berkeley.

She says"...there were odd things going on around town. There were rumors. There were stories. Everything was unmentionable, but nothing was unimaginable. This mystical flirtation with the idea of 'sin'-- this sense that it was possible to go 'too far,' and that many people were doing it-- was very much with us in Los Angeles in 1968 and 1969. A demented and seductive vortical tension was building in the community. The jitters were setting in. I recall a time when the dogs barked every night and the moon was always full.
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Format: Paperback
This book is definitely the "Part 2" of a series that begoins with Didion's "Slouching Towards Bethlehem" and each time that i return to it I feel like I am sitting down with a dear friend that I haven't talked to in a while. Other reviewers seem to have covered the title piece quite well, but I am intrigued that nobody seems to have mentioned my favorite -"Holy Water"- a fascinating look behind the scenes at the California Water Authority. I assign this essay again and again to my environmentalist students, both for the immediate content and for the intriguing window into the seductive nature of technology -one feels that Didion comes to be horrified and walks away enthralled. You will be too.
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Format: Paperback
I feel very fortunate to have been turned on to this book and, more importantly, this writer! Many of the stories told have the feel of someone sitting on the edge of the scene, looking in on many of the interesting people and events of the late 1960s and into the 70s. It's a fun perspective. After reading lots of sixties memoir-type writings, I'd say this is a unique one. These essays seem to be covering topics she'd previously written on as a journalist.. so they're memoirs, in a way. With some familiar characters -- Jim Morrison, Eldridge Cleaver, Nancy Reagan, etc. -- and others I'm just coming to learn about, new and uncommon scenes are played out. In other words, they're mostly stories I haven't read yet from a subject that's maybe overly covered. It's a quick read, but an entertaining one from someone who knew how to describe her surroundings during an interesting time. I will now go looking for more Joan Didion books...
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I always cherish the opportunity to tear into the exquisite style of Joan Didion, one of the most unique writers of the 20th century; although two of her most important works, THE YEAR OF MAGICAL THINKING and BLUE NIGHTS were released in the past ten years. SLOUCHING TOWARDS BETHLEHEM is a perfectly realized series of essays, THE WHITE ALBUM, not so much, and that's mainly due to the subject matter. While BETHLEHEM had so many universal pieces that still hold up nearly fifty years later, THE WHITE ALBUM suffers from too many pieces that were already flat by the time the collection was published in 1979. But first the positive. Didion's best prose is dissecting the generational upheavals and revealing the beats and feelings of a generation, as she does with Manson Girl Linda Kasabian and Black Panther Huey P. Newton. A look at the (then) empty governor's mansion in Sacramento, the Hoover Dam and the creation of the interstate's Diamond Lane also feature the wonderfully dry Didion observational wit. Her continuous essays on Hawaii also show insight to the writer but also the tenacity of the region. An essay on the history of the mall, however, stops short but reveals some interesting possible career avenues. Blanket takes on the women's movement (as seen from 1972) and Hollywood (1973) flounder from lack of perspective. A surprising essay on migraines, however, brings to life in vivid detail the author's pain and perseverance. Didion is at her best when chronicling life in the here and now, and her opening gambit about the dangers of man that lurk in the Ellroy-ridden Los Angeles of the time is a masterful essay about the end of the 1960s, which she pinpoints to the Sharon Tate murders in August 1969. The constant in the writing is the delicate flow of words from this master of the essay.
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