õ Read å Where I Was From by Joan Didion ↠´ Joan Didion strikes me as being one of the smartest writers in America, with a firm but quiet authority that makes me trust her absolutely She is also probably the last social commentator in America who is not shouting with little rivulets of mad dog spittle flying from the corners of her mouth Sometimes the book was truly thought changing for me in not only how I regard California, but how I regard the whole westward expansion aspect of the USA I live in Fort Wayne, IN once the hot center of the military trading frontier and characterized by all of the usual boondoggles, chicanery, and rapaciousness To see this carried on to the Golden Gate was a bit depressing in fact, by the time we had expanded to California, the federal apparatus had become very sophisticated and prevalent in a way that dwarfs the knee britches and coonskin cap crudities of Indiana settlement Damn the railroads And aero space And, er, and thank God for them too, I guess Whence goeth California, so goeth the country Ah, but I digress One of my favorite moments in this book was when one of my favorite military historians, Victor Davis Hansen, a Californian like Didion, and like Didion the product of wealthy pioneer ranch owning stock, came under Didion s pitiless gaze Hansen has long rhapsodized about how he still lives on and to some extent works the ranch, contrasting his rooted to the soil rootedness with the shallow narcissistic lives lead by other Americans Because of my enormous respect for him, I always took all these things he said as gospel But Didion calmly and rationally takes Hansen s supposed pioneering spirit and reduces it to a smoldering pile of historical wishful thinking California is and pretty much always has been a heavily subsidized, self satisfied and self delusional product of a whole bunch of Federal interference dam building and corporate gimmees first the railroads, then military avionics, crop subsidies, etc The Donner Party had to eat their dead and not quite dead yets but once they got to the Golden State, things got a lot easier for many of them This is a gross simplification of Didion s calm handling of facts I was uncomfortable to see Hansen get exposed like this he rebutted, I presume, somewhere but Didion did it without getting shrill for even a moment And her logic, and her facts, seemed dead on I mean to readof Didion s work my only wildly unfair complaint about her is that she often writes about stuff I don t give a tinker s damn about California, for instance although she made me interested finally But I had to stop reading her book on Miami, so absolutely bogged down and bored I became in the Cuban expat political scene Sort of like the way the New Yorker s best writer, Joan Accocela I spelt that wrong, I know covers, mostly, dance But good writing is its own reward Didion is a master There is this weird melancholy aspect to her prose that is unique to her it lends a gravity to what she writes that is missing in that of most other cultural commentators She s one of the few famous contemporary writers I would like to know.
Joan Didion discusses her family and their migration to California She separates fact from fiction in the stories told, not only about her own family, but also about her native California Exploring bits and pieces from the 19th century to 21st, readers are treated to well written essays showing the spirit of true Californians.
My favorite essays, of course, were those exploring her own family or which included information on the family of her subjects Thomas Kincade was the starting point of one of her essays This one appealed to me because our family usually puts together a puzzle at Christmas, and it is often one based on a Thomas Kincade print This was my introduction to Didion, but I hope to explore some of her other writings as time permits.
In Her Moving And Insightful New Book, Joan Didion Reassesses Parts Of Her Life, Her Work, Her History And Ours A Native Californian, Didion Applies Her Scalpel Like Intelligence To The State S Ethic Of Ruthless Self Sufficiency In Order To Examine That Ethic S Often Tenuous Relationship To RealityCombining History And Reportage, Memoir And Literary Criticism, Where I Was Fromexplores California S Romances With Land And Water Its Unacknowledged Debts To Railroads, Aerospace, And Big Government The Disjunction Between Its Code Of Individualism And Its Fetish For Prisons Whether She Is Writing About Her Pioneer Ancestors Or Privileged Sexual Predators, Robber Barons Or Writers Not Excluding Herself , Didion Is An Unparalleled Observer, And Her Book Is At Once Intellectually Provocative And Deeply Personal Well, I only got half way through this one The last chapter I landed on, about the Spur Posse and the stark reality of a pre designed faux ownership class called Lakewood, seems to be the best chapter in the book It was a struggle to get there I feel odd reviewing a book I only read half of, but take a jab at this if you need to Correct me if I am wrong Tell me Joan Didion didn t write a whole book about the underbelly of the California dream and leave out the injustices done to people of color Tell me it ain t so Because, as far as I can see, Joan, who is a CA native, wrote this expose on the great golden state, and seems to feign shock that the westward expansion was less than pleasant, that the water wars and the railway building did not benefit the masses in conception or manifestation And mostly from the viewpoint of the privelaged Her book starts with a twisting and turning history of the Sacramento River, dives loosely into the trek from east to west, the railways, etc, etc We have heard this story Joan is correct in pointing out that this is usually a glamorized, romantic tale of rugged individualism She is also correct in pointing out that CA is one of thedependant states on federal funding in the nation, and has been from the start She delivers this as if this contrast were some massive epiphany, as if she truly discovered this novel idea Strcuk gold, if you will.
Some how, Didion misses the bulk of CA history All her stories or at least half of them are told from the trite viewpoint of wealthy white men and women Property owners Barons She misses the true injustices that have built CA into the amazing place it is today I am not asking her to write the story of the Native American, I am not asking her to conjure images of every Chinese man s sweat and blood over the iron tracks they lay, or to pay book length homage to Hispanic families who are the backbone of the agricultural industry in CA but a nod, a wave from your new Manhattan pedestal Joan Something I knew the minute she started this historical account without a mention of the people and land that came before the white settlers that we were in for a one way perspective ride Don t trash CA unless you trash it right Otherwise, you won t see the people who overcame the struggles That s why CA rocks it.
I was raised in California, still live here, and have read Didion all my life I was thinking of her words on the Santa Ana winds when I finished this book, while a firebug in Los Angeles took advantage of the hot winter weather to set cars on fire across the Westside Ain t no crazy like a California crazy, I thought but Joan says it better We can divide Didion s work into phases investigative, fictional, and her late work, mostly memoir I reject the idea that her earlier stuff is somehow stronger here and in The Year Of Magical Thinking her prose is contemplative and introspective, but also muscular, the way ballet can be.
I love Joan Didion I love her way of writing toward her meaning, and I m thrilled when she gets there, because her words and her years have taken her to a view no one else can describe In this work, she begins to bind together what it means to live in California without agenda, standing clear of all attachments her life has offered Those attachments are many, but she refuses to inhabit them There s grace in Didion s work the grace of clarity and distance It s been decades, and still no one does this better.
Questo libro una ricerca sui miei equivoci circa il luogo e il modo in cui sono cresciuta, equivoci che riguardano l America cos come la California, fraintendimenti e malintesi a tal punto insiti nella persona che sono diventata che ancora oggi mi riesce di affrontarli solo per vie indirette Non esattamente una biografia, dunque Un viaggio, piuttosto Un indagine antropologica, sociale e anche familiare La storia dei pionieri che per primi abitarono la valle dell Eden, nutrendola con le loro speranze e le loro illusioni il cammino eroico verso la Sierra Nevada, prima che inesorabile scenda la neve la progressiva trasformazione dello spirito dell Ovest e l alterazione dell immaginario entro cui affondato il sogno californiano tutto questo si intreccia con la vita, il sentimento e la storia personale di Joan, dei suoi antenati e dei suoi genitori.
Raccontata come sempre con la sua voce dal timbro unico e inconfondibile Il suo realismo, la sua lucidit , la sua stoica amarezza Perch non esiste davvero un modo per fare i conti con tutto ci che perdiamo.
Con Joan Didion no soy objetiva Es una de mis escritoras favoritas Me gusta tanto en novela como en ensayo, aunque reconozco que es con este ltimo donde me gana Los que sue an el sue o doradoes una recopilaci n de art culos con una tem tica de los m s variada reflexiones personales, cr nicas de asesinatos, una canci n de amor a John Wayne, un homenaje a Georgia O keefe, incluso habla del per odo presidencial de Ronald Reagan Ha sido muy bonito reencontrarme con la Joan ntima deEl a o del pensamiento m gico y a su vez, descubrir a la escritora divertida, mordaz e incisiva, incluso a la reivindicativa en esta recopilaci n Ella hace que escribir parezca f cil Tiene una manera de contar tan cercana que atrapa te hace part cipe del relato hasta el punto de creer que Joan Didion te habla a ti Y en mitad de toda esa conversaci n ntima y personal, no puedo evitar recordar a esas otras escritoras que me hacen sentir en casa Olivia Laing y su Ciudad solitaria , Maggie Nelson y sus Argonautas, Patti Smith con M Train o mi querida Margaret Atwood en La maldici n de Eva Todas ellas mujeres escritoras, con una voz nica, diversa y carism tica Tras leer este sue o dorado, tampoco me olvido de Sara Smythe, uno de los personajes literarios que m s me han marcado este a o lector Vidas distintas entrelazadas por un mismo hilo conductor las palabras y la escritura como catalizador para contar historias, ya sea la propia o la ajena Y s , esta vez, el relato se cuenta en voz alta Qu suerte leerlas y qu bonito ha sido encontrarlas.
In a way, everything Didion wrote led to this book I think it s one of her best and I sort of consider it the end of the trail, even though her biggest publishing success The Year of Magical Thinking was just around the corner This is Didion s elegiac farewell to California, going back over her life and work and the pioneer myths onto which she had projected so much of her core narrative sensibilities There s a real scope to it collecting a New Yorker piece about the teen sex posse in Lakewood, Calif.
, and some other California related pieces for the NYRB and then some very good personal work near the end, on the death of her mother, which is in a waypowerful than the grief story told in Magical Thinking The White Album is my favorite Didion book, but this one is a close second.
Discussion of how California has changed, then, tends locally to define theideal California as that which existed at whatever past point the speaker first saw it Gilroy as it was in the 1960s and Gilroy as it was fifteen years ago and Gilroy as it was when my father and I ate short ribs at the Milias Hotel are three pictures with virtually no overlap, a hologram that dematerializes as I drive through itJoan Didion, Where I Was FromA place belongs forever to whoever claims it hardest, remembers it most obsessively, wrenches it from itself, shapes it, renders it, loves it so radically that he remakes it in his imageJoan Didion, The White AlbumCalifornia belongs to Joan DidionMichiko KakutaniProbably 3.
5 Not going to review it much tonight I liked it in parts, loved it in parts, felt let down by parts, but graded against her other greats The Year of Magical Thinking, Slouching Towards Bethlehem, The White Album , it just doesn t quite hold up Feels a bit cobbled together, but I m probably just being picky and petty.
In a 4 part book Didion explores the history and narrative of California, and like she is want to do, she kinda clears the table of myths, fables, and stories that people have constructed around place time She loves California, but recognizes in that great big state a bunch of contradictions and flaws that seem to be varnished over every couple of years She loves California but wants it to be loved WITH the flaws, not with the bullshit This involves a bit of journalistic deconstruction, revisionism, playful teasing, family history, re reading of her own past writings, thoughts about death and family, property and family, and always, always California especially Sacramento Anyway, mediocre, messy, meditative Didion is still pretty damn fantastic.
So, so good Family memoir, social history, contemporary reportage and literary criticism of Frank Norris, Jack London, and Joan Didion in perfect proportions, synthesized in her sad and piquant prose, her astringent lyricism A patient autopsy of the myths of the American West, of Progress I want to shelve this with the Bridge novels and Son of the Morning Star Didion and Connell children of the Plains and the Far West, with their doubts and dry wits, sly siblings winking to each other across the mid century WASP dinner table The grandparents settled this west for what reason, at what cost, to establish what kind of culture And when she s funny she makes me smile all day A Thomas Kinkade painting was typically rendered in slightly surreal pastels It typically featured a cottage or a house of such insistent coziness as to seem actually sinister, suggestive of a trap designed to attract Hansel and Gretel Every window was lit, to lurid effect, as if the interior of the structure might be on fire.
Of her nonfiction, this is my second favorite, just behind The White Album.