The White Album

The White Album: Essays (FSG Classics)

I think I really just don’t like Didion. Unless my mood is swinging hither & yon and causing me to veer one way and the next. The White Album I thought would be a terrific dinner mint about the 1970s. Instead, I could barely muster enthusiasm to turn the pages as Joan drones on in her dull flat unemotional voice. Some parts are good– descriptions of the abandoned Governor’s mansion that Jerry Brown refused to live on, opting instead for a mattress on a floor in an apartment in Sac, a glimpse at Nancy Reagan attempting to act naturally as she’s in front of a TV crew “going about a normal day” as the governor’s wife, tales of the dryness of California, especially quoting Bernard DeVoto: “The West begins where the average annual rainfall drops below twenty inches.” Also an interesting peek at a Jaycee convention where the 1960s appeared not to have happened:

The word “apathy” cropped up again and again, an odd word to use in relation to the past few years, and it was a while before I realized what it meant. It was not simply a word remembered from the Fifties, when most of these men had frozen their vocabularies: it was a word meant to indicate that not enough of “our kind” were speaking out. It was a cry in the wilderness, and this resolute determination to meet 1950 head-on was a kind of refuge. Here were some people who had been led to believe that the future was always a rational extension of the past, that there would ever be world enough and time for “turning attention,” for “problems” and “solutions.” Of course they would not admit their inchoate fears that the world was not that way any more. Of course they would not join the “fashionable doubters.” Of course they would ignore the “pessimistic pundits.” It occurred to me finally that I was listening to a true underground, to the voice of all those who have felt themselves not merely shocked but personally betrayed by recent history. It was supposed to have been their time. It was not.” (1968-70)