The White Album

by Joan Didion

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Last Updated September 5, 2023.

Writer Joan Didion's The While Album is a collection of essays published in 1976. The collection shares its title with the first essay, "The While Album," which is uniquely autobiographical in nature. This title essay records the author's experiences in California during the 1960s, including everything from the fascinating backstage view of a recording session by the Doors to the destabilizing murders of Charles Manson (including a testimony on the infamous case of the murder of Sharon Tate, who had been 8 months pregnant when murdered).

The collection is divided into five sections, with a group of essays exhibiting a (loose) common theme (e.g. "women," and "sojourns."). Not all essays are as dramatic as the first. Some essays include simple themes, such as a pontification on the value of water in the California landscape.

The major themes of the collection are fictionalization through storytelling and the transformative power of place. Didion uses a journalistic style of writing to dramatize occasionally ordinary events or characters, using the language of an interested but objective reporter (this technique was called New Journalism). California is the setting of many of the stories, and Didion was a Sacramento native (with a B.A. from UC Berkeley), whose works demonstrate an abiding interest in the loneliness and heartache that coexist alongside the apparent excitement and glam in California culture.

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