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We Tell Ourselves Stories in Order to Live: Collected Nonfiction [Hardcover]

Joan Didion
5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
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Book Description

Oct. 17 2006 Everyman's Library Classics & Contemporary Classics
(Book Jacket Status: Jacketed)

Joan Didion’s incomparable and distinctive essays and journalism are admired for their acute, incisive observations and their spare, elegant style. Now the seven books of nonfiction that appeared between 1968 and 2003 have been brought together into one thrilling collection.

Slouching Towards Bethlehem captures the counterculture of the sixties, its mood and lifestyle, as symbolized by California, Joan Baez, Haight-Ashbury. The White Album covers the revolutionary politics and the “contemporary wasteland” of the late sixties and early seventies, in pieces on the Manson family, the Black Panthers, and Hollywood. Salvador is a riveting look at the social and political landscape of civil war. Miami exposes the secret role this largely Latin city played in the Cold War, from the Bay of Pigs through Watergate. In After Henry Didion reports on the Reagans, Patty Hearst, and the Central Park jogger case. The eight essays in Political Fictions–on censorship in the media, Gingrich, Clinton, Starr, and “compassionate conservatism,” among others–show us how we got to the political scene of today. And in Where I Was From Didion shows that California was never the land of the golden dream.

Frequently Bought Together

We Tell Ourselves Stories in Order to Live: Collected Nonfiction + The Year of Magical Thinking + Slouching Towards Bethlehem
Price For All Three: CDN$ 50.35

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Product Description


“[Didion’s is] one of the most recognizable—and brilliant—literary styles to emerge in America during the past four decades . . . [She is] a great American writer.”
New York Times Book Review

“One beautiful sentence follows another . . . Didion has remained a clearheaded and original writer all her long life.”

“Her intelligence is as honed as ever . . . Her vision is ice-water clear . . . Didion has captured the mood of America.”
New York Times

“Many of us have tried, and failed, to master [Didion’s] gift for the single ordinary deflating word, the word that spins an otherwise flat sentence through five degrees of irony. But her sentences could only be hers.”
Chicago Tribune

“I have been trying forever to figure out why [Didion’s] sentences are better than mine or yours . . . Something about [their] cadence. They come at you, if not from ambush, then in gnomic haikus, ice pick laser beams, or waves. Even the space on the page around these sentences is more interesting than it ought to be, as if to square a sandbox for a Sphinx.”
—from the Introduction by John Leonard

About the Author

Joan Didion was born in California and lives in New York City. She is the author of five novels and seven previous books of nonfiction.

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Most helpful customer reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Great book Aug. 12 2014
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
Just started reading it - it's a BIG book! But I love Joan's view of the world...
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Amazon.com: 4.7 out of 5 stars  21 reviews
72 of 72 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars One of our greats Nov. 10 2008
By E. Kutinsky - Published on Amazon.com
This book came up while I was buying "Political Fictions" for a friend of mine, and I was worried I'd missed something, but actually it's every nonfiction book she's written up through 2003. I've savored every word of Didion's nonfiction since reading "Goodbye To All That" (the final essay of Slouching Toward Bethlehem) in a nonfiction class in college , and she's never let me down. It's not simply that Didion is one of our greatest writers, its that her style is so incisive and unforgettable because she works with only a whisper of the incredible effort and vision she creates, she undoes the reader with observations that don't appear to be observations - she makes her conclusions about culture, nature, and humanity the only conclusions, and she can devastate, over and over again, in a single sentence. It's crazy to think of all of the nonfiction books I've bought of hers fitting concisely into under 1200 pages, but how lucky for the people that own this book to be able to do what took me years to do - track down each piece and appreciate it separately (except for the uber-successful Year of Magical Thinking, which still requires its own purchase). I hope readers take the time to appreciate the differences in each work, to consider how time and how Didion's consciousness adjusted from one book to the next, but the important thing is that she continue to be read and enjoyed. Here, you can read a piece like "Goodbye to All That," or "Quiet Days In Malibu," or that devastating final chapter of Where I Was From to hear that beautiful, plaintive, liberating sad voice, and then follow it up with Salvador or "In The Realm of the Fisher King" or "Vichy Washington" and appreciate a cunning that rips into politics and the culture at large. One strange review on here stated that it was unlikely Didion's work would outlast her life much, and while I don't know that to be untrue (I mean, she's still alive), one thing I've loved about her is that any contextual writing she does - writing about Joan Baez in the 60's, say, or seeing Georgia O'Keefe in the 70's, or Miami, or El Salvador, or Reagan or Hawaii - feels current because it speaks to the human observation watching it occur, and because the culture we make up (the "stories we tell ourselves") around whatever's occuring always remain the same. I wasn't alive or cognizant when much of what she writes about occurs, but to me, Didion's one of the great writers that made me feel connected to the world, feel less alone, and feel thrilled at every topic she's discussed.
32 of 35 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Wonderful collection March 8 2007
By Patrick Deane - Published on Amazon.com
Joan Didion is the one writer I can return to again and again. I marvel at each paragraph, each sentence. Her voice is unique and though she has many imitators she has no equal. I still regularly reread The White Album which I discovered as a teenager over 20 years ago. This it a beautiful edition and a wonderful collection.
35 of 39 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars What a great compilation April 28 2007
By J. Aragon - Published on Amazon.com
I checked this out from our local library the other day and it turned out to be a serendipitous find. I've read some of Didion's work previously of which _The Year of the Magical Thinking_ was the most recent.

This compilation was actually fun to read. My favourite pieces were the ones that focused on California or Southern California, respectively. She is a gifted storyteller.

I couldn't help but feel a keen sense of sadness for her with the noted timeline of her life (and historical moments, too). She lost both her parents, then her spouse and two years later her daughter.

I would suggest this book to others. It's a real treasure.
28 of 31 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Worthwhile compilation March 12 2007
By Z Hayes - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
I only became aware of Joan Didion after hearing about her bestseller, The Year of Magical Thinking, which I got, and found absolutely touching. When I came across this compilation, I thought I'd give it a try...I wasn't disappointed...each of the essays/ articles have something to offer, and Didion is truly a gifted writer. I'm only sorry that I had missed out on such a talented author before finding her on a bestseller list.
15 of 15 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Divinity between the covers Nov. 3 2007
By G. E. Melone - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
WARNING! This is an extremely biassed review!
No one writes like Joan Didion. Every story, almost every sentence is a study of someone who obviously loves the language.
Didion hones in on our finest feelings, our fears, our sorrows shot from her literary arrow, with the truest aim.
I cannot read Didion without wanting to know more...there is something in her non-fiction pieces which reaches out and grabs you, drawing you into facts that would send you to sleep if it were someone else offering them to you.
This is a fine collection of Didion observations. No one does it better. I am still resonanting to Self Esteem from Slouching Toward Bethlehem and I read it 10 years ago. Where I Was From is full of California stories, and even if you've never even visited the place you would know it intimately when you finish the book.
A great collection.
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