Being There and not Really Being There


Title: The White Album

Rating: 2 Stars

I was excited to read The White Album. I’d been reading a lot about the 1960’s and 1970’s and I find much of the New Journalism school to be interesting reading, by and large. So, when I saw that Joan Didion had published a collection of essays about her life in California during the 1960’s and 1970’s, I thought that this would be right up my alley.

Of all of the essays, I did enjoy the first, the eponymous The White Album. She was in the middle of a critical time in America. She writes about time spent with Black Panthers, Manson Family members, and with The Doors. Those three subjects right there constitute a huge chunk of the importance of the 1960’s.

Even in that essay, I sensed a remoteness from the subject. It was clearly the context of an observer observing. I felt no emotional connection to the events. To me, it barely qualified even as basic reporting. My experience with New Journalism is that it usually seems much more intimate, immersive, and personal. I felt almost an antiseptic quality to the writing.

I felt this same level of remoteness with all of the stories, none of which seemed as interesting to me as The White Album. There were essays on orchids, on Nancy Reagan, on Doris Lessing, even on lifeguards. They all were clear and well written. I just did not feel personally engaged really with any of them.



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