The White Album: Essays (FSG Classics)
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First published in 1979, The White Album records indelibly the upheavals and aftermaths of the 1960s. Examining key events, figures, and trends of the era―including Charles Manson, the Black Panthers, and the shopping mall―through the lens of her own spiritual confusion, Joan Didion helped to define mass culture as we now understand it. Written with a commanding sureness of tone and linguistic precision, The White Album is a central text of American reportage and a classic of American autobiography.
Back East. Yale Law. A job in Washington with the Securities and Exchange Commission. “You have to understand that he was very lonely in Washington,” his mother said after his death. “He really wanted to come home. I wish he had.” And yet it must have seemed to such a western child that he had at last met the “real” world, the “great” world, the world to beat. The world in which, as the young man who started out a winner soon discovered and wrote to his mother, “practically every churchgoer you
illusionistic portico murals are “back lot.” The entire building, an informed improvisation on a villa buried by mud from Vesuvius in 79 A.D. and seen again only dimly during some eighteenth-century tunneling around Herculaneum, is ritually dismissed as “inauthentic,” although what “authentic” could mean in this context is hard to say. Something about the place embarrasses people. The collection itself is usually referred to as “that kind of thing,” as in “not even the best of that kind of
the woman to whom I was talking. “You turn left at the old Mocambo.” I liked the ring of this line, summing up as it did a couple of generations of that peculiar vacant fervor which is Hollywood political action, but acquaintances to whom I repeated it seemed uneasy. Politics are not widely considered a legitimate source of amusement in Hollywood, where the borrowed rhetoric by which political ideas are reduced to choices between the good (equality is good) and the bad (genocide is bad) tends to
change, and their enthusiasms and debates sometimes seem very close to me in this house. In a way the house suggests the particular vanity of perceiving social life as a problem to be solved by the good will of individuals, but I do not mention that to many of the people who visit me here. 2 Pretty Nancy Reagan, the wife then of the governor of California, was standing in the dining room of her rented house on 45th Street in Sacramento, listening to a television newsman explain what he wanted
lectures in Middle English and presentations to advertisers with involuntary tears running down the right side of my face, threw up in washrooms, stumbled home by instinct, emptied ice trays onto my bed and tried to freeze the pain in my right temple, wished only for a neurosurgeon who would do a lobotomy on house call, and cursed my imagination. It was a long time before I began thinking mechanistically enough to accept migraine for what it was: something with which I would be living, the way