A memoir of land, family and perseverance from one of the most influential writers in America. Didion’s ancestors were pioneers, pushing westward to settle the vast lands of California, and with great pride, grit and graft, to turn that desert state into the fifth biggest economy in the world. What kind of people made that magic possible?
In this moving and unexpected book, Joan Didion reassesses parts of her life, her work, her history, and America’s. 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, 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 her eye onto her own work 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.
‘Her tough, beautiful, surgically precise prose is like nothing else I’ve ever read.’ Donna Tartt
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‘She is a voice like no other in contemporary journalism.’ New York Times
‘Everything Didion writes has a land’s end edginess to it- a hyperattentiveeye on the dramas of the human condition. She writes as someone who has come through great shudders of the earth with a fundamental understanding that everything is subject to instantaneous and complete revision.’ Village Voice
‘She is the best chronicler California has.’ Vogue
‘Valediction and elegy alike, WHERE I WAS FROM is a storm-tossed book… Some writers see Californians as brilliant dreamers; others see failures, seeking a second start. Didion steps over both arguments and portrays the settlers of the state as shrewd entrepreneurs who would stop at nothing to turn dirt into dollars.’ Thomas Curwen, LA Times
‘For four decades, Didion has written in masterly fashion about the contradictions of California culture. In this book, she casts an arctic eye on recent phenomena and on her own upbringing…’ New Yorker
'She is one of our true stylists. Her sentences have the wicked precision of a Wodehouse or a Waugh, though she uses them for a different purpose: a cold keening for the times we live in.' Richard Eder
'A slant of vision that is arresting and unique… Didion might be an observer from another planet – one so edgy and alert that she ends up knowing more about our own world than we know ourselves.' Anne Tyler
'Joan Didion has always held a solitary status as a modern American essayist, her prose defining erudition and cool elegance… Her style always belonged more to noir than hip: It suggested a singular integrity, a private struggle with ominous depths. She showed a generation of young American journalists how to make reporting moodily stylish, a personal expression.' New York Observer
'Didion's whole career has been a disenchantment, from which her pages fall like brilliant autumn leaves and arrange themselves as sermons in the stones.' New York Times Book Review
'There's no accident that she writes movies and lives with film, because her work, like Hemingway's is montage… She has the same sense of the power of the sentence and the power of the next sentence.' Norman MailerThe Times:
'Didion is one of America's finest literary stylists, one of its most penetrating reporters and acutest critics.'
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Book Description Flamingo, 2004. Hardcover. Book Condition: New. book. Bookseller Inventory # 0007178867