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.
©1992 Joan Didion (P)2013 Audible, Inc.
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"It'll blow a hole in your retina"
"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.'
"Interesting essays but the narration grates"
This was to be my introduction to Didion so I spent some time deciding which book to begin with. I chose After Henry as it seemed most appropriate following a visit to LA. The opening chapter (about her and her husband's relationship with their editor and friend, Henry) took my breath away. It will be one of those stories I believe I'll remember for life. And, I found her insights on both LA and NYC powerful and thought provoking despite their age. However, it took me months to complete this Audible edition because I hated the narrator's voice and speech pattern. I could only handle it in small doses and every moment spent working my way through this book was painful. Therefore, I would suggest just reading this one.
"get this narrator a dictionary!"
not sure...I'm normally an enthusiastic Joan Didion fan
Where to begin? She reads in a weird hushed tone as if reading a baby to sleep. Not well-suited to Didion's gritty style. If a reader is lucky enough to be hired to record a book, one would think s/he would look up all proper nouns and any words that are unfamiliar. Mispronounced words: Point Hueneme ("Port Wanamay"), centrifugal, seismological, realtor (really??? a two-syllable word is too difficult???), anecdote, ancillary, Eli Broad (rhymes with road, not odd), and on and on. Really no excuse.
Joan Didion should get more input as to who records her books. Maybe I would have enjoyed these essays more in print. I certainly love her other works.
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