Let Me Tell You What I Mean Summary and Reviews

Let Me Tell You What I Mean

by Joan Didion

Let Me Tell You What I Mean by Joan Didion X
Let Me Tell You What I Mean by Joan Didion
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Book Summary

Twelve early pieces never before collected that offer an illuminating glimpse into the mind and process of Joan Didion.

Mostly drawn from the earliest part of her astonishing five-decade career, the wide-ranging pieces in this collection include Didion writing about a Gamblers Anonymous meeting, a visit to San Simeon, and a reunion of WWII veterans in Las Vegas, and about topics ranging from Nancy Reagan to Robert Mapplethorpe to Martha Stewart.

Here are subjects Didion has long written about -- the press, politics, California robber barons, women, the act of writing, and her own self-doubt. Each piece is classic Didion: incisive and, in new light, stunningly prescient.

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Reviews

Media Reviews

"[The essays] reveal the author's shrewd, acerbic critical eye...A slender, highly satisfying collection." - Kirkus Reviews

"This wide-ranging essay collection from Didion showcases her strengths as a short form writer...[her] fans new and old will be delighted." - Publishers Weekly

"[E]xhilarating and instructive...[Writing is] a voyage of discovery for Didion, conducted via meticulous observation and assiduous questioning...[she] is both porous and steely, self-deprecating and in command...this an illuminating and inspiring addition to the influential Didion canon." - Booklist

"This volume could be read in one sitting or one vignette at a time, as Didion's perceptive voice connects the essays beautifully, but each one can stand equally well on its own terms. For both fans of Didion and those new to her work entirely, this collection is an essential investment." - Library Journal

"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, the Oprah Magazine

"This slim volume of uncollected nonfiction is full of small pleasures: Didion's trademark anti-sentimentality, for one; her rhythmic prose; her ruthlessness (see her assessments of gambling addicts, hippies, Nancy Reagan); her wit. In the charming 'Telling Stories' we also get self-effacement: a piece about why she never made the grade as a young short story writer...complete with rejection notices compiled by her agent." - Vogue

"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." - Washington Post

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Author Information

Joan Didion Author Biography

Photo © 2003 Colleen Guaitolini

Joan Didion was born in Sacramento, CA in 1934, the daughter of an officer in the Army Air Corps. A shy, bookish child, Didion spent her teenage years typing out Ernest Hemingway stories to learn how sentences work. She attended the University of California, Berkeley where she got a degree in English and won an essay contest sponsored by Vogue magazine. The prize was a research assistant job at the magazine where Didion would work for more than a decade, eventually working her way up to an associate features editor. During this time she wrote for various other magazines and published her first novel, a tragic story about murder and betrayal, called Run River in 1963. The following year she married fellow writer John Gregory Dunne and the two moved to Los Angeles. The couple adopted a ...

... Full Biography

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