The Book Review: “The White Album Essays” by Joan Didion

So I have this new project that I will include in this blog. I will start “The Book Review”.  I think by now it is obvious that I love to read. I mean, LOVE to read – if I could I would read all day long probably. If I am not reading for myself I am reading to my son and he is into book already which I think is great. He is not even two years old. On an average I read two to three books a week. Yes, I do find the time to do it because I love it. The idea is, that I write about at least one of the books I have read during the week and review it. These days I am into Joan Didion. It all started with the book “Slouching towards Bethlehem” that I really enjoy. Today I want to review her book “The white Album Essays”.

With this book, as well as “Slouching towards Bethlehem” it is all the same. I did not love the book at first but once I started reading a couple of pages it somewhat started to grow on me and I was hooked. “The White Album” is a collection of events and narratives that occurred in the 60’s and 70’s and examines the lives of infamous and famous places and people. To name a few: Doris Lessing, Georgia O’Keeffe, Charles Manson, the Hoover Dam and many others).

I love that Didion gives just thoughtful and candid bits and pieces of a time that has past and many things that are just unique to California. I like how she describes how life was back then because she makes all her essays very personal and almost mundane. I have never been to San Francisco so this book is kind of a tribute to a place and time I know almost nothing about. I wish I could turn back time and just be there in the 60’s with her. I have to admit that I was not interested in all the subjects she was writing about but all her articles kept me captivated for some reason. It is just this awesome style of writing she has. Some great writers just have this skill to make any topic awesome or keep the reader interested and make them read on. Even though you have this feeling … yeah… this is not really what I usually read. Well, with her essays you are just caught in this loop of awesomeness and keep on reading if you like it or not.

Most of the essays I enjoyed the most are found on Chapter IV – Sojourns. Here “In Bed” I loved when she wrote how she had been doing while trying to easy the massive migraine she suffered from.

“And once it comes, not that I am wise in its ways, I no longer fight it. I lie down and let it happen. At first ever small apprehension  is magnified, every anxiety a pounding terror. Then the pain comes, and I concentrate only on that. Right there is the usefulness of migraine , there is that imposed yoga, the concentration of pain. … The migraine has has acted as a circuit breaker and the fuses have merged intact. There is a pleasant convalescent euphoria. I open the windows and feel the air, eat gratefully, sleep well. I notice the particular nature of a flower in a glass on the stair landing. I count my blessings”. 

I believe her essays are very personal and sharply observed. In her first essay she describes her pervasive sense of detachment that she felt constantly from this world. Well, I believe she was in a very fragile mental state when she wrote most of her essays in this book and even some others. In the other essays she writes more clearly and let’s say more put together. Didion herself stated many times that she puts personal issues into some of her essays; however, I feel it is courageous for her to reveal herself this way.

It is just a great read overall and was challenging for me at points because English is not my first language. I had to look some words up which is fine. If you read any of her books let me know your thoughts.

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