The White Album (book)

The White Album (book)

Infobox Book
name = The White Album
title_orig =
translator =

image_caption = 1990 trade paperback cover
author = Joan Didion
illustrator =
cover_artist =
country = United States
language = English
series =
genre = Essays
publisher = Simon & Schuster (orig. publisher) & Farrar, Straus and Giroux
release_date = 1979
media_type = Print (Hardback & Paperback)
pages = 224 pp (Farrar, Straus and Giroux paperback edition)
isbn = ISBN 0-374-52221-9 (Farrar, Straus and Giroux paperback edition)
preceded_by =
followed_by =

"The White Album" is a 1979 book of essays by Joan Didion. The entire contents of this book are reprinted in Didion's "We Tell Ourselves Stories in Order to Live: Collected Nonfiction" (2006).


I. The White Album

*"The White Album" (1968-78)

"The White Album" is an autobiographical literary essay detailing loosely related events in the author's life in the 1960s, primarily in Los Angeles, California. In the course of describing her ongoing psychological difficulties, Didion discusses Black Panther Party meetings, drug-related experiences, a Doors recording session, various other interactions with LA musicians and cultural figures and several prison meetings with Linda Kasabian, a former follower of Charles Manson who was testifying against the group for the grisly Sharon Tate murders. The beautiful actress had been an acquaintance of Didion's. The murder trial cast a cloud of fear over Hollywood that seemed to propel many of Didion's insights. The impression conveyed is one of a city and nation pervaded by paranoia and detachment. She blames the older generation for not giving teenagers a direction.

"At some point between 1945 and 1967 we had somehow neglected to tell these children the rules of the game we happened to be playing . . . These were children who grew up cut loose from the web of cousins and great-aunts and family doctors and lifelong neighbors who had traditionally suggested and enforced the society's values. ... They are less in rebellion against society thanignorant of it, able only to feed back certain of its most publicized self-doubts, Vietnam, Saran-Wrap, diet pills, the Bomb. They feed back exactly what is given to them. Because they do not believe in words--words are for 'typeheads,' Chester Anderson tells them, and a thought which needs words is just one more of those ego trips--their only proficient vocabulary is in the society's platitudes. As it happens I am still committed to the idea that the ability to think for one's self depends upon one's mastery of the language, and I am not optimistic about children who will settle for saying, to indicate that their mother and father do not live together, that they come from 'a broken home.' They are sixteen, fifteen, fourteen years old, younger all the time, an army of children waiting to be given the words."

However, the ending, in which the author moves away from what she feels to be the unstable world of Hollywood and renovates an old house that possesses a few lingering associations with the 1960s, indicates that for her there is still the possibility of escaping the paranoia and unrest of that decade.

II. California Republic

*"James Pike, American" (1976)
*"Holy Water" (1977)
*"Many Mansions" (1977)An account of a lavish Governor's mansion commissioned by Ronald Reagan, while Governor of California, which was not used.
*"The Getty" (1977)The Museum is viewed as an extension of power
*"Bureaucrats" (1976)The contemporary workings of Caltrans.
*"Good Citizens" (1968-70)Californian politics
*"Notes Toward a Dreampolitik" (1968-70)

III. Women

*"The Women's Movement" (1972)A critical essay which views second-wave feminism as a Marxist substitute for the proletariat.
*"Doris Lessing" (1971)The author of "The Golden Notebook" is seen as a 'nativist' writer in the manner of Theodore Dreiser.
*"Georgia O'Keeffe"

IV. Sojourns

*"In the Islands"
*"In Hollywood"
*"In Bed"
*"On the Road"
*"On the Mall"
*"In Bogotá"
*"At the Dam"

V. On the Morning After the Sixties

*"On the Morning After the Sixties"
*"Quiet Days in Malibu"

External links

* [ Discussion Questions about Didion's "White Album"]
* [ Review of the "White Album"]

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