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Where I Was From (Vintage International)

Where I Was From Vintage International In this moving and unexpected book Joan Didion reassesses parts of her life her work her history and ours Where I Was From in Didion s words represents an exploration into my own confusions abou

  • Title: Where I Was From (Vintage International)
  • Author: Joan Didion
  • ISBN: null
  • Page: 493
  • Format: Kindle Edition
  • In this moving and unexpected book, Joan Didion reassesses parts of her life, her work, her history, and ours Where I Was From, in Didion s words, represents an exploration into my own confusions about the place and the way in which I grew up, confusions as much about America as about California, misapprehensions and misunderstandings so much a part of who I became thatIn this moving and unexpected book, Joan Didion reassesses parts of her life, her work, her history, and ours Where I Was From, in Didion s words, represents an exploration into my own confusions about the place and the way in which I grew up, confusions as much about America as about California, misapprehensions and misunderstandings so much a part of who I became that I can still to this day confront them only obliquely The book is a haunting narrative of how her own family moved west with the frontier from the birth of her great great great great great grandmother in Virginia in 1766 to the death of her mother on the edge of the Pacific in 2001 of how the wagon train stories of hardship and abandonment and endurance created a culture in which survival would seem the sole virtue.In Where I Was From, Didion turns what John Leonard has called her sonar ear, her radar eye onto her own work, as well as that of such California writers as Frank Norris and Jack London and Henry George, to examine how the folly and recklessness in the very grain of the California settlement led to the California we know today a state mortgaged first to the railroad, then to the aerospace industry, and overwhelmingly to the federal government, a dependent colony of those political and corporate owners who fly in for the annual encampment of the Bohemian Club Here is the one writer we always want to read on California showing us the startling contradictions in its and in America s core values.Joan Didion s unerring sense of America and its spirit, her acute interpretation of its institutions and literature, and her incisive questioning of the stories it tells itself make this fiercely intelligent book a provocative and important tour de force from one of our greatest writers.From the Hardcover edition.

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    1 thought on “Where I Was From (Vintage International)

    1. “Discussion of how California has 'changed,' then, tends locally to define the more ideal 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 it.”― Joan Didion, Where I Was From “A place belongs forever to whoever claims [...]

    2. 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 ac [...]

    3. 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 o [...]

    4. 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 c [...]

    5. 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 s [...]

    6. 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 cente [...]

    7. 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 [...]

    8. This was a tough book to get through, often dull, frequently depressing. Didion, a Sacramento-area native, examines the myth of the Calfornia Dream. She provides ample evidence that state residents are self-deluded and that their values frequently contradict (ie: believing we are anti-government mavericks, yet being reliant on the DOD for so many jobs). The book is well-researched and accounts of the media coverage of the "Spur Posse" and the number of prisons and insane asyllums in the state (t [...]

    9. During college, I heard Joan Didion read from this book. She is a miniscule person with giant glasses, a quiet voice, and a knack for putting words together that really blows me away. I finally got around to reading it. Joan Didion could write a book about plastic bags and I'd still read it, and still probably like it. This topic wasn't something I particularly give a damn about (California history), but her writing is so elegant, understated and thoughtful that I liked it for form over substanc [...]

    10. My new friend Chris sent me this book after I took him to Point Reyes for the day. I think I did a pretty good job of convincing him that California is a really nice place to live. He recommended (and sent me) this book - an homage and narrative of the state by one of its most revered writers. It's really fascinating. It's a fairly slim book, but it took me two weeks to get through. That's a big compliment - I kept slowing down and rereading passages, unwilling to miss anything.

    11. this is not a book i ever would have picked up on my own. i didn't think i cared about a personal history of california told by a wealthy white woman. i underestimated how a mind and a pen like joan didion's can shape a subject. navigating between irrigation, mythology, american dreaming, race riots, and the muted undercurrent of class, didion creates a poignant landscape that refuses to indulge mere sentiment. there are turns of phrase in here that took my breath away. quote(s) to come.

    12. Read it for a California history course, so I read it over most of a semester. Unique look at this state that I'm glad I read. It was my first exposure to the work of Joan Didion; it convinced me I'd like to read more of her work.

    13. Though I am not from CA and moved here as an adult, I could still identify with a lot here. I love her writing style. I echo the critique about not really addressing the role of people of color in CA, but it also wasn't a long book

    14. This is one of the most amazing books I ever read in my life. Didion is one of the best American writers for sure! Highly recommended.

    15. Devastating -- particularly as a passionate Californian transplanted 19 years ago. I am intrigued by the state's history, which yes, is contradictory to its promise, sometimes, and I often find myself alone in my confusion. This book was revelatory. I bow to Joan Didion - a writer like no other.

    16. The statement, "where we are from makes us who we are" seems both an obvious truth and a gross over simplification and is usually dismissed without too much thought. Most of us are aware that there is a connection between our childhood environment and the values we use to define ourselves as adults, but very few of us look too closely at the mythology that shaped us. Didion does. This is a remarkable book, one that will force the reader to re-examine their own past and, if we are as honest and i [...]

    17. I am a fan of Joan Didion, a voracious reader of her books, but WIWF gave me pause. Just as Didion was asking "the point of California," I started to ponder the point of Joan Didion. Always brilliant, of course, but also morose and sour. Her subjects meander, and she seems displeased and disappointed by everything. (Could she really not find a novel more suitable to summarize the Californian experience than "The Octopus"? Had she simply avoided Steinbeck her whole life? Was Ellroy too lowbrow? A [...]

    18. Reading this book was like being given half the pieces of a puzzle and trying to create the whole image from them. The result was far better than having been given all of the pieces, because I spent part of the time with this book in my hands, reading it, and other part with this book in my hands, thinking about what I was reading and making the connections, based on my own experiences and opinions. The book, essentially, is about place. Specifically: California, and the myth of idealism that cr [...]

    19. I was born in California and lived there until I was 37 years old. We studied State History in grade school, the whole thing from the native tribes and the Spanish padres and settlers. Joan's book is unique in that here is are parts of California history that I am unfamiliar with. I particularly like the parts about the asylums. It's not all rosy happy sunshine. Her family's story is unique and it was refreshing to read a story from a completely different perspective from what I have known. I'm [...]

    20. Enjoyable read. Joan Didion has long been a favorite. She hasn't lost it. Here she brings us across the country with her relative who survived the trek with the Donner party. And she brings us through the years as California aged as her family did.I liked that she ended as she had begun, with Sacramento and her family's role. This includes the agrarian and industrial roles. I found it interesting that she names multiple members of her family going to the same university but not her own daughter; [...]

    21. Thoughtful reflections on California, its history and its culture; also interesting discussion on class. First part is slow but it picks up after that.

    22. It seems to me that Didion’s books are not for reading but for swallowing - a meal you eat while you cry. And you do that because both are vital for you to survive. And both utterly painful. She casually throws in these ultimate sentences:“There is no real way to deal with everything we loose”“Where I was from” is not a truly biographical book, as it is more a historical book, understanding California, its utopia/ maddening development without a solid ground beneath. A book of demystif [...]

    23. Plucked from the library shelf on an unplanned trip, I brought this home yesterday looking to add living narrative to the dry, patrimonial California histories I've been reading.My first encounter with Didion, there was a lucidity and a reflective humility that quenched a thirst, helping me finish the book in a day.The retracing of her steps through conscious & subconscious personal and broader California mythologies was a cathartic reassessment every Californian could gain from.What are the [...]

    24. It's impenetrably white, her world, which to me explains this sentence:Yet California has remained in some way impenetrable to me, a wearying enigma, as it has to many of us who are from there. We worry it, correct and revise it, try and fail to define our relationship to it and its relationship to the rest of the country. (38)I don't have a long and tortured history of wagon trains and leading pioneer families in my relationship to California of course. No grandmothers telling me what life is a [...]

    25. Prior to picking up this book, the only book I had read by Joan Didion was Slouching Towards Bethlehem. In it are essays and articles dealing with the late Sixties and early Seventies, mostly in California - a time I consider "my" era. There were a couple of essays about Didion's early life as well.I thought this book would be a more detailed autobiography of Didion, perhaps with some of her family history. Instead, it is a history of California, with occasional tidbits about Didion's ancestors [...]

    26. This book started slow for me; I gave up ~page 50 before returning a few months later. But I'm so glad I came back. A mix of literary journalism and memoir, Didion spends the first 75% dissecting Sacramento/California/the California "ideal." The remainder is on how those forces influenced her individual outlook and understanding. As a native Californian who, like Didion, is no longer living in California, her observations about the state's contradictions particularly resonated with me. All the h [...]

    27. I am 50/50 with this piece of material. At times, it reads like a long form history book, which is entirely fine, but not indicative of creative a page-turning experience, at least in my case.But, when she dwells into her own personal stories about her ancestors' Golden journey into and out of California, her relationship with her mom and dad and her own accounts of what Sacramento meant to her, it turns into an intimate form of campfire storytelling where I clung onto every word. Those little n [...]

    28. This lagged for me in the middle--I thought the Spur Posse material wasn't sufficiently integrated or explained--and it felt slow in ways her essays collections don't. But by the end I'd largely forgotten the problems I had in earlier in the book. Not my favorite work by Didion; I doubt I'll read it again and again, as I have with the title essays ofSlouching Towards Bethlehemor The White Album, but certainly not a waste of my time.

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