(Review) The White Album by Joan Didion

the white album

Publisher and Publication Date: Open Road Media. May 9, 2017, first published 1979.
Genre: Essays. Nonfiction.
Pages: 224.
Source: Library-Kindle edition.
Rating: Recommended.
Audience: Joan Didion fans, deep thinkers, and those who love to read essays on life.

Amazon link

I’ve read several of Joan Didion’s books. I’ve enjoyed reading all of them. Her perspective, and the ability to transpose onto paper what she sees, gives me the ability to be the extra person in the room.


The sections in the book are as follows:

I. The White Album
II. California Republic
III. Woman
IV. Sojourns
V. On the Morning After The Sixties

“The White Album” is the section of the book that was my favorite. It’s a mix of different stories. For example: a murder in Laurel Canyon, Linda Kasabian (former member of the Manson family and a key witness for the prosecution), The Doors, Janis Joplin, and Sybil Brand (known for improving jail conditions for women).

A quote that is a favorite among many readers:
“We tell ourselves stories in order to live.”
This is a deep quote, and it’s one that causes discussion. My first question is whether the story is real or fiction? A real story has depth, meaning, and teaching for not only the person who lived that particular story, but for the audience who reads or hears the story. For example: my dad’s memories of living through the Great Depression.
A fictional story is entertaining and on some level can have depth, meaning, and teaching, but it is not the same as hearing a person tell “their story”. An example is reading a historical fiction story about the Holocaust vs. reading or hearing the memoir of the Holocaust from a survivor.
Joan Didion encountered and had conversations with people of the 1960s and 1970s who made a mark in history. Some of these people like the music group, The Doors, had stirred a curiosity in me. I enjoyed reading Didion’s perspective on them, principally Jim Morrison.
A strong benefit of reading an essay is they’re short. An excellent reading choice before bedtime or commuting by train.


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