In her latest forays into the American scene, Joan Didion covers ground from Washington to Los Angeles, from a TV producer's gargantuan "manor" to the racial battlefields of New York's criminal courts. At each stop she uncovers the mythic narratives that elude other observers: Didion tells us about the fantasies the media construct around crime victims and presidential candidates; she gives us new interpretations of the stories of Nancy Reagan and Patty Hearst; she charts America's rollercoaster ride through evanescent booms and hard times that won't go away. A bracing amalgam of skepticism and sympathy, After Henry is further proof of Joan Didion's infallible radar for the true spirit of our age.
Joan Didion was born in California and lived in New York City. She was best known for her novels and her literary journalism.
Her novels and essays explore the disintegration of American morals and cultural chaos, where the overriding theme is individual and social fragmentation. A sense of anxiety or dread permeates much of her work.
Hanno scelto uno strano titolo per l’edizione italiana. Quello originale è un semplice After Henry, dopo Henry: perché Henry è morto, ed Henry è stato un grande amico di Joan Didion e di suo marito John Dunne. Amico prima ancora che editor. Questa raccolta di saggi giornalistici, dono di una persona preziosa, è dedicata a lui, a Henry Robbins (e anche a Bret Easton Ellis).
Il campus di Berkeley dell’Università di California, dove Didion si è laureata nel 1956.
S’incontrarono per la prima volta nell’estate del 1966. S’incontrarono a cena e restarono insieme fino alle tre del mattino, ridendo e bevendo, ubriacandosi di alcol e allegria. Da allora, per tredici anni, fino a una mattina del luglio 1979, i coniugi Didion-Dunne e Henry Robbins si sentirono almeno una volta alla settimana, e, nonostante la distanza (loro in California, lui a New York) si raccontarono e condivisero tredici anni di vita. Poi, in una mattina di luglio del 1979, Henry Robbins si accasciò sul pavimento della stazione della metropolitana della 14ma strada, e non si rialzò più. A 51 anni.
L’estremità a sud dell’isola di Manhattan, il financial district, Wall Street e il vuoto lasciato dalle Twin Towers.
Per come lo descrive Joan Didion, Henry Robbins era un editor che non aveva molto a che fare con titoli, frasi, modifiche: era quello che a lei scrittrice restituiva un’idea di sé, un’immagine di sé che le permetteva di restare sola e scrivere.
L’ultima volta che Joan Didion ed Henry Robbins si videro fu due mesi prima della morte di Henry, a Los Angeles: Henry passò a casa di Joan prima di andare a una festa di lavoro, e lei lo convinse a dare buca e restare a cena. Quella sera parlarono molto, ma, secondo Joan, quello che Henry voleva davvero trasmetterle era che poteva farcela anche senza di lui. Ma lei non gli credette.
Downtown San Francisco visto da una finestra dello SFMOMA.
Resta con me, non te ne andare è il verso di una poesia di Delmore Schwartz, che poi continua così: Trovare il giusto passo prima di invecchiare, Camminare insieme sulla strada che scompare, Come Chaplin e la sua sorella orfana.
È la quarta raccolta di reportage pubblicata in Italia (dopo “Verso Betlemme”, “The White Album” e “Miami”). La scrittura sfumata, rarefatta, sfuggente, sfaccettata di Joan Didion trasforma in letteratura ogni appunto del suo taccuino, e compone un ritmo seducente, erotico.
La Statua della Libertà vista dal traghetto per Staten Island.
È diviso in tre parti: la prima è dedicata a Washington, e quindi a campagne elettorali presidenziali, alla politica che determina la Storia; l’ultima a New York, ed è un lungo saggio su un caso di stupro molto violento a Central Park (impossibile non pensare a “Lucky” di Alice Sebold) che diventa l’occasione per ragionare sulla violenza verso le donne, sui sogni e le bugie della Grande Mela, su come si crea l’illusione della sicurezza (e quella dell’insicurezza), su come nasce un parco, tra speculazioni immobiliari e domande di lavoro. Quella centrale, e più corposa, è dedicata alla California: e per il tempo che ho passato in quella parte del mondo, e per come amo quel paese, è per forza di cose la mia sezione preferita di questa miscellanea.
Downtown Los Angeles.
Didion non regala certezze, e neppure opinioni facili: dona al lettore un’esperienza letteraria.
L’infanzia è il regno dove nessuno muore mai.
PS Oltre il titolo, trovo sbagliata anche la copertina, semplicemente brutta.
A collection of essay's my Joan Didion, mostly centered around politics and social commentary. While I enjoyed the writing very much, Didion is so eloquent, I was bored during a good three fourths of the book. I think it's because I don't really care about what happened in the 80's while Reagan was president, though it was amusing to see that our current president isn't the only inadequate president we've had. I also don't live in LA so I didn't relate at all to the essays about the earth quakes and fires that break out. I did enjoy the last essay on the rape and assault that happened to a jogger in central park because it centered much more around the ideas of race and it felt more relevant even today. The parts of the book that were most interesting were things that were applicable or related to the current day and I had originally thought that the essays about Reagan had been included in the book to draw parallels with the current situation but I'm not so sure after looking at the description now. I do want to read more of Didion's writing now and I only bumped it up to four stars from three because I really like the way she writes. I think I would've liked it more if it didn't center around so much personal experience I do tend to hate memoirs because I'm self centered and other people's lives are boring. I basically had to force myself to read the ones about her growing up in the atomic age and about her experience in college.
"It'll blow a hole in your retina" -- Joan Didion, "Pacific Distances" in 'After Henry'
"Writers are only rarely likable. They bring nothing to the party, leave their game at the typewriter. They fear their contribution to the general welfare to be evanescent..." -- Joan Didion, 'After Henry'
Joan Didion is a prose knife fighter. God love whoever/whatever finds their slow side trapped in a corner, facing the pointy end of Didion's prose. She is especially talented in writing about place (especially California, Washington, Hawaii, New York, Los Angeles) politics, and people. But these are just the prose steps, the shifting geology, the temporary coordinates of her attacks. The thrust of her compressed prose is directed at narrative: the narrative of politics, the narrative of cities, city papers, journalists, actors, etc. She knows language and cliché and can smell Waimea bullshit from a busy "4+lib" near Brentwood Park. She is both gift and god. She is both bounty and blessing. She is both shake and tremor. It is obvious she loves things, but isn't afraid to pull the scab directly off the things she most loves. She doesn't have time for sentimental niceties. She ain't got time for you to bleed.
In the 80s she was maturing, but losing none of her grace and none of her excellence. These stories or narrative essays or whatever are all taken from her seasoned years (1979-1991) after her long-time editor Henry Robbins died (1979). They were written as evidence to herself that she could still write after he died, that she could 'do it without him.'
[3.5] Reading this collection is like time traveling back to the 1980s with a savvy, sharp-eyed guide. Most of the essays are focused on Los Angeles local politics and feel very dated - although still worth reading. Her essay "Sentimental Journey" about injustice and the Central Park jogger rape case, written years before new DNA evidence came to light, is brilliant.
Joan Didion's After Henry is a set of essays, the best of which are "in the Realm of the Fisher King" about the Reagan White House and "Sentimental Journeys" about crime in New York City, centering on the 1989 rape of a jogger in Central Park. I also enjoyed all the essays in the section entitled "California": I feel that the author understanding of the California scene is superior to that of any other writer, except perhaps Eve Babitz.
I find it interesting that most essay collections contain published book reviews, whereas Joan's do not. It is obvious that she is well read, but she doesn't appear to like writing about books.
Here is an older (50ish to 60ish), wiser and denser Joan Didion, really buckling down on the biggies: politics, especially, but also society and even race. "After Henry" is bookended by two of my favorite Didion pieces: The opening essay meaningfully explores the relationship between a writer and her editor; it's about where to go and how to write when your favorite editor is no longer there to catch you when you fall. "Sentimental Journeys," the last essay in "After Henry," is a reported analysis of the Central Park Jogger trials (the Trayvon Martin case of its time), with a deeper step-back about New York and its landmark green space.
The book is an important part of a trilogy beginning with "Slouching Towards Bethlehem" and continuing in "The White Album." People will always like her earlier stuff, but Didion really did get better with age and experience; we all do.
So this is Didion after her '60s/'70s peak years, by and large, dealing with the changing landscape of America and largely shifting her focus away from her native California. The pyrotechnics are fewer, the analysis is cooler, and the perceptions are sharp as ever, whatever she's writing about, whether that's politics as team sport, crime as spectacle, or the invisible lines of demarcation that separate out the various camps of the American 1 percent. I'm not sure why she named this After Henry -- that is the title of the first essay in the book, but it's also the title of the weakest and dullest essay. Go figure. After you've worshiped at the temples of The White Album and Slouching Towards Bethlehem, pick up After Henry.
Joan Didion’s sharp as a razor skills of observation cut to the heart of narratives . Narrative as cultural contracts silently written to construct shared life experiences are illustrated whether it be the ludicrous lives of the Reagan’s , Patty Hearst or the creation of New York’s Central Park as a symbol of corruption . Joan’s ability to nail the bs meter of life is incredibly profound . To read words so spot on to read them literally kicks the air from your lungs to where you have to pause and catch your breath.
The famed Reagan presidency a.k.a. reign is simplified through a mere act of ordering outrageously expensive presidential dinnerware layered in 24k gold the reason? The set in the White House already in existence did not have finger bowls . All this happening right under the sounds of hammers removing The Carter administrations solar panels on the roof . Ahhhh the 80s such a cartoon time .
The subject matter appealed to me because I have lived in most of the areas and time periods covered here . I see some of the other reviewers are not as fortunate and so it did not resonate . For me Joan always resonates with me . A powerful force of writing that is like no other but perhaps James Baldwin . I hope to finish all of her books this year .
The thing about Joan Didion’s supernaturally wonderful writing is that most often she writes about topics that don’t interest me… American politics and history. This essay collection was particularly focused on these topics, more so than her earlier nonfiction books, and so I only got through most of it on account of my wild admiration for Didion as a stylist and thinker (well, the two are symbiotic really…). Only 'After Henry' and 'Girl of the Golden West' essays held my attention because of their content too. I particularly missed Didion’s personal presence as the character-narrator that used to be more prominent in the earlier essays. I also felt that most of the works in this collection were quite outdated, whereas those in Slouching Towards Bethlehem and in White Album books feel more universal, more relevant today too. But the gems of individual sentences… the gems… For example: ‘Wyntoon [a private rural estate] had mists, and allusions to the infinite, great trunks of trees left to rot where they fell, a wild river, barbaric fireplaces.’
As we gear up for another season of Who's Going to be President, the essays here on politics are evermore poignant. And yet, who will read them that doesn't already agree? Didion's biggest weakness might be her perpetual lot of a saint preaching to the choir.
The essay "LA Noir" manages to be more interesting, mysterious, and entertaining than all of True Detective season 2 by about a million x. Good non-fiction is better than almost all fiction.
Didion can write journalistic pieces with a novelist's flair and somehow not come off as fake or covered in treacle. She does, however, rely more than a bit too much on parenthetical clauses, which may be why Bret Easton Ellis had to spend time on it with her editor. BEE... I see more and more how influenced he is by Didion, from the casual namedropping of celebs and big shots to the matter-of-fact recitations of violence. Still prefer JD.
Tons of good stuff. Even the less interesting essays are extremely readable.
see, Joan Didion is not just a super smart robot who can see through all of you silly humans and your silly reasons and your silly way of going about doing the silly things you do... see, she has a heart too! here's the proof.
Ormai essendo alla terza raccolta di saggi di Didion che commento in relativamente poco tempo, mi sento di ripetere quello che ho già commentato le altre volte. È uno sguardo veramente molto tagliente e insolitamente preciso quello che mette a fuoco l'America nei suoi saggi. Dal presidente Regan alla moglie di Aaron Spelling (storia che mi ha fatto molto ridere, considerando che sono cresciuta a botte di Beverly Hills 90210, dove recitava la figlia Tori), dagli sceneggiatori precari (chi lo andava a dire alla Didion che nel 2007-2008 l'argomento sarebbe tornato di assoluta attualità) che alla fine sollevano questioni che potrebbero essere quelle di ogni giovane precario di oggi in altre realtà, al crimine e alle questioni razziali e a quelle climatiche (leggi: incendi in California). Non c'è niente che non torni di attualità nelle tematiche scelte, segno del grande fiuto per le storie (o per la storia, forse) dell'autrice.
“It occurred to me during the summer of 1988, in California and Atlanta and New Orleans, in the course of watching first the California primary and then the Democratic and Republican national conventions, that it had not been by accident that the people with whom I had preferred to spend time in high school had, on the whole, hung out in gas stations. They had not run for student body office. They had not gone to Yale or Swarthmore or DePauw, nor had they even applied. They had gotten drafted, gone through basic at Fort Ord. They had knocked up girls, and married them, had begun what they called the first night of the rest of their lives with a midnight drive to Carson City and a five-dollar ceremony performed by a justice still in his pajamas. They got jobs at the places that had laid off their uncles. They paid their bills or did not pay their bills, made down payments on tract houses, led lives on that social and economic edge referred to, in Washington and among those whose preferred locus is Washington, as “out there.” They were never destined to be, in other words, communicants in what we have come to call, when we want to indicate the traditional ways in which power is exchanged and the status quo maintained in the United States, “the process.”
Notes: One of the most peculiar things about Didion is that I sometimes don’t agree with her politics, but I almost always agree with her about ours. All political operatives, strategists, and hobbyists (categories of people, especially the latter, we should all strive to not be counted within) ought to read her account of the 1988 presidential election; her vision of an election that set a watermark for immateriality and featured all of the banal disconnections from reality that characterize our current political media environment is prophetic (narrative, horse race, set pieces, coverage focused entirely on the meta, and many other elements remain central), dispiriting (she understood how terrible all of this was 33 years ago, and yet here we are), and quaint (the 1988 election seems quite substantive compared to our current contests, where one party is formally policy-free) all at once.
Several individual pieces (I could read Didion on Los Angeles until the Golden State slides into the sea) easily rise to the level of those in her first two collections, but as a collection their comparative lack of cohesion adds up to a somewhat less sublime experience (though, to be clear, a “somewhat less sublime” book than Slouching and White Album is quite a remarkable book!).
Joan Didion is armed with a particular kind of x-ray vision — one that cuts through appearances, never fooled by the words being said or the explanation being given. It takes a certain breed of person, perhaps one that has been taught to distrust nearly everything and everyone, to bring the charismatic indifference and rigor she does to her political and cultural commentary.
After Henry is a worthwhile read, but much more focused on American politics and history than her other collections of non-fiction writing. There are certain gems in this book — the essays Insider Baseball, Shooters Inc., Sentimental Journeys — but at times difficult to get through if one is uninterested in the details of 80s politics. I would recommend Slouching Towards Bethlehem first, The White Album second, A Year of Magical Thinking third, and After Henry only for those who have at that point been thoroughly cast under the Didion spell.
Joan Didion mi era entrata nel cuore con "L'anno del pensiero magico" e mi ero, perciò, ripromessa di leggermi tutte le sue opere. Così ho preso in mano "Nel paese del Re pescatore" ed è stata una grande delusione (anche se probabilmente è da unicamente imputare al mio mancato interesse per i temi trattati).
La scrittura della Didion non è da mettere in discussione - rimane sempre sublime. Sono piuttosto gli argomenti che mi hanno suscitato solo una noia terribile. L'opera è divisa in tre sezioni: "Washington" sui temi politici/presidenziali (molto scorrevole il primo scritto su Nancy Reagan), "California" su l'ononimo stato e LA, e "New York" su un caso di violenza avvenuto a Central Park come spunto per una riflessione più ampia (forse la sezione più interessante). Consiglio, dunque, il libro solamente a chi vuole scoprire nei minimi dettagli il paese americano.
I received this book from NetGalley. I picked it because Joan Didion is on my book club list (The Year of Magical Thinking).
There were parts of this book that I really enjoyed - the California section and the New York section especially. I learned facts about each that I was not previously aware. The California section particularly because I lived outside Los Angeles for 28 years and remember a lot of what the author was writing about.
The thing that bothered me about this book was that I had to keep a dictionary beside me the whole time reading the book - made me feel a little dumb, but I learned new words! The author also writes LONG sentences using commas, semi-colons, and parenthesis abundantly. I was constantly having to reread and breaking down the sentences in order to absorb what she was saying.
"i believed that days would be too full forever, too crowded with friends there was no time to see. i believed, by way of contemplating the future, that we would all be around for one another's funerals. i was wrong. i had failed to imagine, i had not understood. here was the way it was going to be: i would be around for henry's funeral, but he was not going to be around for mine"
Contains some of the authors longer and denser works. prolly why it took 3 weeks to read. emphasized (or exacerbated depending on readers taste) some of her writerly tendencies. Also hit on many of her familiar themes (geographic psychologies of California, New York). My fav bits were her observations on news media, in the form of covering both specific events like pres election cycles and specific institutions like the LA times or NY papers.
My other favorite part about reading Didion besides the substance is imagining her face as she writes this or reads it aloud because she has such a distinct authorial personality. Her actual dominating presence in her text seems to contradict her reputation of unsentimental observational detachment but there she is looking through dark sunglasses with her California cool nerdy glamour lecturing me about sentimentality and lamenting (unsentimentally, coolly) the devolution of all things concrete into abstract narrative filler
A fine collection of stories. What is there to do after the death of your husband but to look at where you come from? Spanning across Los Angeles and New York, Didion could write about the most mundane subject and I'd eat it up as if I was starved. She discussed currency exchange and I was floored by the music she incorporated into her language around numbers and symbols.
You really get a sense of where LA came from. You really get a sense of what New York was like. All in the late eighties. Money moved. People rioted. Over jobs. Over skin color. These essays show us that not much has changed from the America we know now. The spirit is still there. That trying and true longing that feeds the soil with the running blood of work ethic and politics that run cities dry of a light that beckons and beams in that hope that heaven projects.
I love Joan Didion and these are a mix of her essays from the late 80's / early 90's and are split between pieces on politics, LA, and then one on New York. Of course, given the dates some are just well, at this point, do I care (does anyone?) about the LA mayoral race in 1988? On the other hand, the distance of time makes some strike all the more. Her last essay on New York focuses on the case of the Central Park jogger and given what we now know, that the 'Central Park 5' were all actually innocent and basically coerced into confessions, her critique of the case and its handling (by police and perhaps even more so by the media) is made all the more trenchant.
The essays in this book were so specifically topical when they were written that they have become meaningless now. I struggled to recall the events they referred to even though I was aware of most of them when they occurred. I do remember the beating and rape of "The Central Park Jogger," because it was phenomenally mishandled, and I have not been able to read a book by Linda Fairstein years. She was one of the prosecutors who railroaded the young black men found guilty of the crime. Mostly, this book is just too dated.
Didion is as demanding of her readers as she likely was of herself as a writer.
I did not read "Down at City Hall" or "Insider Baseball," as their subjects disinterest me. But Didion's writing is such that I may visit them later to enter her sentences again. They are often long and rhythmic. One must pay attention, always. One must keep up.
Hmm. Not grabbing me the way all of her other books have. Too political, too journalistic, too uninvolving? Even the Patty Hearst essay seemed more of an exercise/assignment. I’m sure there are good bits, but I am not digging out as many as I’d like. Some other day.
"We tell ourselves stories in order to live," updated, for the 1980s and early 1990s. Loved it. This collection of essays is elegant, and as sharp-eyed, as subtle and brutal and intelligent and witty as the other Joan Didion non-fiction collections, including Slouching Towards Bethlehem, The White Album, Miami, Salvador, and After Henry. Bravo.