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We Tell Ourselves Stories in Order to Live: Collected Nonfiction Hardcover – Oct 17 2006

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 21 reviews
72 of 72 people found the following review helpful
One of our greats Nov. 10 2008
By E. Kutinsky - Published on
Format: Hardcover
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
A Wonderful collection March 8 2007
By Patrick Deane - Published on
Format: Hardcover
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
What a great compilation April 28 2007
By J. Aragon - Published on
Format: Hardcover
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
Worthwhile compilation March 12 2007
By Z Hayes - Published on
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
Divinity between the covers Nov. 3 2007
By G. E. Melone - Published on
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.