Although I’ve heard of her, with many of her books on those ‘books you must read before you die’ lists, I’d never read any Joan Didion before. Following this, I’ll definitely be reading her again.
A series of essays on elements of American life from the late 60’s to the late 70’s, The White Album documents the death throes of the sixties amidst the Manson murders, where you could often find a complete stranger wandering around your house in LA neighbourhoods gone to seed, meeting members of the Black Panthers at a time of tumultuous politics, thoughts on the women’s movement, summering at the Honolulu Royal Sheraton, and travelling on LA’s freeways.
Considering that my life (living in England nearly 50 years later) doesn’t resemble Didion’s in any way, shape or form, it was surprising how much of this resonated with me. I summer in my back garden, in a decent neighbourhood, exclusively use public transport and will probably never be allowed by my work to meet any of our regular visiting politicians (as I definitely would wear my ‘fuck the Tories’ necklace to meet our publicity-hungry and constantly visiting local Tory MP, as well as being searingly honest on what I think of his party’s policies), and yet I found Didion’s writing incredibly evocative – especially whenever dealing with her inner life (which, despite our differences, sounds staggeringly similar to mine).
Luckily for me, I now have Didion’s large body of work to read through. I’m especially looking forward to reading her take on the American cultural landscape today.