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Publisher's Summary

In her moving and insightful new book, Joan Didion reassesses parts of her life, her work, her history and ours. A native Californian, Didion applies her scalpel-like intelligence to the state’s ethic of ruthless self-sufficiency in order to examine that ethic’s often tenuous relationship to reality.

Combining history and reportage, memoir and literary criticism, Where I Was From explores California’s romances with land and water; its unacknowledged debts to railroads, aerospace, and big government; the disjunction between its code of individualism and its fetish for prisons. Whether she is writing about her pioneer ancestors or privileged sexual predators, robber barons or writers (not excluding herself), Didion is an unparalleled observer, and her book is at once intellectually provocative and deeply personal.

©2003 Joan Didion (P)2013 Audible, Inc.

What listeners say about Where I Was From

Average Customer Ratings
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  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
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    1 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars

Narration Not Good

I really wanted to listen to this book, but the narration was just too bad. Joan Didion writes in such subtle and elegant prose. But for some reason the narrator felt the need to declaim each sentence. It would've been so much better to have had someone (anyone!) just read the book. Too bad!

3 people found this helpful

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  • CA
  • 07-27-20

Narrator horrible

This narrator is awful. Why do these voice actors suck so badly? Where do they find these people?

2 people found this helpful

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    4 out of 5 stars
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California belongs to Joan Didion.

“Discussion of how California has 'changed,' then, tends locally to define the more ideal California as that which existed at whatever past point the speaker first saw it: Gilroy as it was in the 1960s and Gilroy as it was fifteen years ago and Gilroy as it was when my father and I ate short ribs at the Milias Hotel are three pictures with virtually no overlap, a hologram that dematerializes as I drive through it.”
― Joan Didion, Where I Was From

“A place belongs forever to whoever claims it hardest, remembers it most obsessively, wrenches it from itself, shapes it, renders it, loves it so radically that he remakes it in his image."
― Joan Didion, The White Albumn

"California belongs to Joan Didion."
― Michiko Kakutani

Probably 3.5★. I liked it in parts, loved it in parts, felt let down by parts, but graded against her other greats (The Year of Magical Thinking, Slouching Towards Bethlehem, The White Album), it just doesn't quite hold up. Feels a bit cobbled together, but perhaps I'm being picky and petty.

In a 4-part book Didion explores the history and narrative of California, and like she is want to do, she kinda clears the table of myths, fables, and stories that people have constructed around place/time. She loves California, but recognizes in that great big state a bunch of contradictions and flaws that seem to be varnished over every couple of years. She loves California but wants it to be loved WITH the flaws, not with the bullshit. This involves a bit of journalistic deconstruction, revisionism, playful teasing, family history, re-reading of her own past writings, thoughts about death and family, property and family, and always, always California (especially Sacramento).

Anyway, mediocre, messy, meditative Didion is still pretty damn fantastic.

19 people found this helpful

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Wonderful California Listen

Would you consider the audio edition of Where I Was From to be better than the print version?

Well, better, I don't know. But different, yes. I guess maybe better, because the narration was very good. I actually preferred this narrator to the celebrity Diane Keaton's reading of SLOUCHING TOWARDS BETHLEHEM.

What did you like best about this story?

I loved the exposé about the corruption in the prison system. I had no idea. Now, I do.

Which character – as performed by Gabrielle De Cuir – was your favorite?

It was first person and very well done. So she did all the characters very well. At first, I thought she was slow, but within ten minutes she was spinning an amazing character. I felt like she honored the author's intentions very well. I will look for other books by this reader.

Was this a book you wanted to listen to all in one sitting?

No, it was better chapter by chapter since the subject/topics changed.

Any additional comments?

Fabulous book for Californians who want to learn more about their history. Didion is a fabulous writer, and I loved the narrator's take on her tone and irony. Well done.

4 people found this helpful

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    3 out of 5 stars
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Journalism rather than literature

I loved some other books br Joan Didion much better, especially My year of magical thinking. This one feels like a report, not like a book.

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The whole and the parts of Didion

Joan Didion the writer. Joan Didion the essayist. Joan Didion a woman of letters. I couldn’t choose which one she is but she first and foremost Joan Didion watching the world carefully and reporting to us the smallest of shifts in the upper crust under our feet. She does this by referencing moments in her life, her lifetime and weaving the yarn into a beautiful if not sometimes foreboding picture. She tackles how we view ourselves and what we actually might be, by collecting the scraps which we toss out the window as we ride through life, as our culture evolves. From these scraps she asks us to confront questions.

Their are the two children abandoned on the frontier path which evoke a sadness not just for the fate of them but also evoke a strange repugnance at the persons who might leave them to their fate. What does it do to one? Again she visits the theme when corporate interests leave an area like California in the name of restructuring while those left behind, the workers, distract themselves away from the possibility that their up to that moment held self image might very well have been another delusion. In California many delusions exists products of illusions - but not only California. Like the Central valley’s river flood plains which have been harnessed. Like the well intended conservationists who protest development while they themselves live in newly developed areas. A symptom of an uneasy easiness with time and history. She ends the book looking at her own abandonment and hints at others to come which she deals with in books that followed this.

In my estimation Didion is magnificent at capturing the moments in our history and culture when crystallization is about to occur. How she senses this is her gift. Perhaps she is intuitive perhaps she is sensitive but if she is either of these she does herself and her reader the favor of maintaining a distance which can be called dispassionate. Some will say this is evidence of her journalistic training but I think this underscores her understanding of what being a better observer is about. Few women in particular are essayists but Didion sits in company of other greats like Sontag and Arendt. Didion is among these and others not mentioned a more soulful writer and this but one example.

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A Deep Dive Into California History (and Lore)

This book is for any Californian (particularly of recent vintage) to pop the mythology of its history. Told through the generational story of Joan Didion, we see the real underbelly of so much of the Left Coast’s golden mythology. I would like to have heard more of Joan’s voice as a philosopher, but I know that is not necessarily her way.

The narration was crisp, though I would have liked a bit more contrast in voices or family trees to keep track of the often-confusing genealogy and modern actions.

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A Very Thoughtful Non Fiction Work

"Where I Was From" is a very interesting part autobiography, part history of California. It is a thought provoking, intellectual work, I feel somewhat typical of Joan Didion's writing. I love her writing, but it will not appeal to every reader.

As an audiobook, this product is excellent. The narrator, Gabrielle De Cuir, is really excellent. She narrates faithfully to the text and with gentle emotion and inflection that gives life to the writing.

The content is extremely interesting to me. I need to emphasize that I love the writing of Joan Didion. However I am as sure as I can be that some readers will find her work somewhat slow. I read books such as this in segments, taking a break for other reading and other activities.Thank You...