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Summary

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 example of American reportage and a classic of American autobiography.

©1979 Joan Didion (P)2013 Audible, Inc.

Critic reviews

"All of the essays manifest not only [Didion's] intelligence but an instinct for details that continue to emit pulsations in the reader's memory and a style that is spare, subtly musical in its phrasing and exact. Add to these her highly vulnerable sense of herself, and the result is a voice like no other in contemporary journalism." ( The New York Times Book Review)

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  • Overall
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  • Ian C Robertson
  • 21-10-15

Time Capsule of a Bygone Age

I picked this title for three reasons. First, it was highly recommended by a reviewer I follow. Secondly, I love the White Album. Thirdly, I have heard so much about Joan Didion but read none of her writing and I felt as if I was under-educated as a consequence. To say I am ever so slightly disappointed is only a reflection of my expectations and not of the reasons that brought be to listen to the book.
I am pleased I listened to this collection of essays (previously published in the course of a celebrated career as a New Journalist between the early sixties and the late seventies). Although it is commonly reported to be dead, this style of writing will be forever popular because it creates a relationship between the writer, the reader and the subject matter. Didion did that better than well, capturing the essence of the sixties and the seventies west coast feel as well as her own idiosyncratic meanderings as she wrote. I loved the pieces on the Doors session and the portage of water.
Why was I a tad disappointed? Possibly because there was not more of the bits I loved and not enough about the White Album.
Overall, it was a very satisfying experience made more memorable by a lovely reading by Susan Varon. If Didion captured the times, then Varon captured Didion.

8 of 8 people found this review helpful

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  • George
  • 01-04-13

A great portrait of a fascinating time.

Would you recommend this audiobook to a friend? If so, why?

Yes, definitely. This is a really compelling audiobook, beautifully done.

What does Susan Varon bring to the story that you wouldn’t experience if you just read the book?

Susan Varon's voice is a perfect match for Didion's essays. I'd love to hear her do more.

6 of 6 people found this review helpful

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  • Catherine
  • 21-07-16

The Best

I'm a long time fan of Joan Didion and a re-listening of The White Album (so many times and no doubt many more) never disappoints. This audiobook is also distinguished by an impeccable narration — spot on, note perfect in capturing Didion's written voice. Highly recommended.

4 of 4 people found this review helpful

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  • Penelope
  • 06-12-17

Great writing, but she's a snob

Joan Didion is without a doubt an exceptional writer, especially when she adopts the voice of a reporter describing people, places and events. I loved her book " The Year of magical thinking" I bought this book to travel back in time with her to the 1970s in California, a time I also lived through. Her comments on the women's movement were elitist and disdainful. She sounded depressed and intellectually tortured, incapable of empathy. There's an arrogance in her detached assessment of other human beings, especially other women, which is almost laughable. Other chapters on the perennial water crisis in California and the freeway system were boring, but maybe because the topics seem dated. The writing was superb. The narrator was perfect. Saw a new documentary about Joan Didion a couple of weeks ago, also excellent.

3 of 3 people found this review helpful

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  • Darwin8u
  • 27-08-15

We tell ourselves stories in order to live...

We look for the sermon in the suicide, for the social or moral lesson in the murder of five. We interpret what we see, select the most workable of the multiple choices. We live entirely, especially if we are writers, by the imposition of a narrative line upon disparate images, by the "ideas" with which we have learned to freeze the shifting phantasmagoria which is our actual experience.”
- Joan Didion, The White Album

I wish I could dance like Fred Astaire and write like Joan Didion.

I find myself attracted to Joan Didion. The younger Didion, I can understand. She was a Miss Shiv and a Ms.Shank. She was sharp, California cool, and seemed to slide clean and straight along a razor-thin line between madness and coldness that was absolutely sane, true and beautiful. But it isn't just the young Didion I find attractive. I dig the older Didion. The one who seems more hard-wrinkled priestess of the California desert than an elderly queen of cool laying in bed with another GD migraine. I know this is the stuff of cults and hero worship. I know this is already a cliché. It isn't like I DON'T know my diet Coke is bad for me and that nothing is ever, EVER as advertised. But still I long, I lust, I linger too often over just the idea of Didion.

After reading her essays in 'The White Album', I think it would have been dangerous to breed Joan Didion with John McPhee. What rough New Journalism beast, its hour come round at last would awaken and slouch towards the New Yorker, the New York Times, and the New York Review of Books to be born? But where John McPhee is rolling hills and farmer's markets, Joan Didion is a raging river, breaking waves, and rock and roll. McPhee feeds you. Didion gives you the whiskey you might need after a bad dream, or bad trip. McPhee is a rocky mountain cut-through. Didion is an LA Freeway. I can't imagine my life without either. There are certain writers that make you want to read more. Didion is one of those writers that make you want to think and write more.

Be careful folks. You might fall in love with Joan Didion, but she sure the hell won't ever love you back.

23 of 28 people found this review helpful

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  • S. Dillon
  • 09-05-16

just fine

It's beautiful, though Didion sounds like she's sneering much of the time, kind of pious in her criticisms of piety. Varon is a great reader.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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  • Elizabeth A. Binns Roemer
  • 05-06-18

another Didion classic

great book as expected from Joan Didion. Love her take on life and Susan Varon is a great reader

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  • ElizabethSiem
  • 09-04-18

A Weekend with Joan

Where does The White Album rank among all the audiobooks you’ve listened to so far?

It was well worth the listen, I would say among the middle.

How would you have changed the story to make it more enjoyable?

A lazy day read, this work is a perfect backdrop to a garden sit, laundry fold or walk in the park. I would not suggest this for someone who is in a hurry, although maybe it would be just the thing they need.

Would you be willing to try another one of Susan Varon’s performances?

Yes.

If you were to make a film of this book, what would the tag line be?

A ride through the California 70s.

Any additional comments?

After watching the Netflix Documentary, "Joan Didion: The Center Will Not Hold" I had to get my hands on some of her works. Being new to Didion, listening to these short essays was a treat. I think the "White Album" is a good intro to both Didion's work and personal life. It provides a drive by of the San Francisco late 60s-70s while Didion holds steady the wheel using her active observations as backdrop to the searching uncertainty of the time.

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  • Adriayn Smith-Lee
  • 06-03-18

Personal clarity, distant, superb

I felt passion in her articles, essays. Though informative, she places wonderful jewels of personal insight that makes it her own. This is my first Didion and not my last.

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  • Meg Hamilton
  • 23-10-17

Writing 40-Plus Years Ago,, Didion Resonates in 2017

Great collection of essays. Insight into many unusual areas.

Joan Dision is fascinating—I’m excited to find a writer to add to my favorite column.

And I was caught off guard a few times because what she writes—how she feels about what is going on—I would startle a bit thinking she was describing our contemporary situation.