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Let Me Tell You What I Mean
$30.00

Let Me Tell You What I Mean

By Joan Didion
192 pages
Hardcover
January 2021

From one of the most iconic and influential writers: a timeless collection of mostly early pieces that reveal what would become Joan Didion's subjects, including the press, politics, California robber barons, women, and her own self-doubt.

These twelve pieces from 1968 to 2000, never before gathered together, offer an illuminating glimpse into the mind and process of a legendary figure. They showcase Joan Didion's incisive reporting, her empathetic gaze, and her role as "an articulate witness to the most stubborn and intractable truths of our time" (The New York Times Book Review).

Here, Didion touches on topics ranging from newspapers ("the problem is not so much whether one trusts the news as to whether one finds it"), to the fantasy of San Simeon, to not getting into Stanford. In "Why I Write," Didion ponders the act of writing: "I write entirely to find out what I'm thinking, what I'm looking at, what I see and what it means." From her admiration for Hemingway's sentences to her acknowledgment that Martha Stewart's story is one "that has historically encouraged women in this country, even as it has threatened men," these essays are acutely and brilliantly observed. Each piece is classic Didion: incisive, bemused, and stunningly prescient.

"Didion’s remarkable, five decades-long career as a journalist, essayist, novelist, and screen writer has earned her a prominent place in the American literary canon, and the twelve early pieces collected here underscore her singularity. Her musings—whether contemplating “pretty” Nancy Reagan living out her “middle-class American woman’s daydream circa 1948” or the power of Ernest Hemingway’s pen—are all unmistakably Didionesque. There will never be another quite like her." —O Magazine

 “[Didion’s essay] “Why I Write” constitutes a deeper drive than the parsing and ordering of observations; Didion’s why subsumes an existential inquiry into the compulsion to write anything at all, questioning the source of inspiration and asking who, or what, is ultimately in control. In the essay, Didion describes a particular “shimmer” that would form around images in her mind, creating a frame of sorts that pulled her in, impelled her to set down words as a means of telling the scene into being. . . . Reading Let Me Tell You What I Mean with an eye toward the shimmer, I believe it is possible to identify which pictures, crystalline and resonant, drew Didion closer and compelled her to string words together until the molecules manifested a new truth.” --Steffie Nelson, The Los Angeles Times

"Unquestionably, Joan Didion has been the voice of a generation . . . But she has also been the voice of those who’ve followed—you can hear her concision; her taste in the spare, shimmery detail; her lean, muscular sentences; and her dogged questioning of perceived truths . . . Didion is the model and exemplar, but she’s also just the best writer there is at melding the personal and the political, and bundling all the lit match-sticks of modern life into journalistic form."  —Christopher Bollen, Interview Magazine ("Ladies and Gentlemen, the Great Joan Didion")

"[These essays] provide a new view into the essayist’s mind at work. Didion ruminates on her most familiar subjects—politics, California and writing itself—in a voice that is refreshing, critical and ahead of its time."—TIME  
 
"These 12 pieces make an excellent introduction to Didion’s gimlet eye on American life. With a foreword by critic Hilton Als, Let Me Tell You What I Mean includes the essay “Why I Write,” profiles of such disparate figures as Robert Mapplethorpe and Nancy Reagan, and a consideration of Hearst Castle." —Bethanne Patrick, The Washington Post 
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