Let Me Tell You What I Mean

Joan Didion. Knopf, $23 (192p) ISBN 978-0-593-31848-5
This wide-ranging essay collection from Didion (South and West: From a Notebook) showcases her strengths as a short form writer. Organized chronologically from 1968 to 2000, the pieces trace Didion’s development as an essayist and offer glimpses of late-20th-century social history. In 1968’s “Alicia and the Underground Press,” Didion writes of “tabloid-sized papers that respect the special interests of the young and the disaffiliated,” praising their ability to speak directly to their readers; “The Long-Distance Runner,” from 1993, is an ode to filmmaker Tony Richardson: “I never knew anyone who so loved to make things,” she writes; and “Everywoman.com,” from 2000, examines the “cultural meaning of Martha Stewart’s success” and the way she “branded herself not as Superwoman but as Everywoman.” As always, the writing is captivating—in the early “Getting Serenity,” she writes about attending a Gamblers Anonymous meeting (“I got out fast then, before anyone could say ‘serenity’ again, for it is a word I associate with death”) and finds just the right details to nail down the feeling of a bygone era—for example, the mix of “plastic hydrangeas” and cigarette smoke at the GA meeting. Didion fans new and old will be delighted. (Jan.)
Reviewed on : 10/23/2020
Release date: 01/26/2021
Genre: Nonfiction
Book - 978-0-593-31849-2
Paperback - 282 pages - 978-0-593-39655-1
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Audio book sample courtesy of Penguin Random House Audio
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