The scattered and overtly postmodern sensibility of "The White Album"

Jamie Effros, English 171, Sages and Satirists, Brown University, 2002

Didion's essay "The White Album" has a uniquely scattered and overtly postmodern sensibility. These traits are reflected in the following passage:

We put "lay lady lay" on the record player, and "Suzanne." We went down to Melrose Avenue to see the Flying Burritos. There was a jasmine vine grown over the verandah of the big house on Franklin Avenue, and in the evening the smell of jasmine came in through all the open doors and windows. I made bouillabaisse for people who did not eat meat. I imagined that my own life was simple and sweet, and sometimes it was, but there were odd things going around town. There were rumors. There were stories. Everything was unmentionable but nothing was unimaginable.

Questions

  1. How does the structure of this passage reflect the structure of the whole piece, and how does this structure stylistically inform Didion's intentions with the essay?
  2. Other than its structure, what other elements of the essay give it a postmodern sense?
  3. What is achieved in Didion's opposition of emotive and poetic elements in such short and seemingly depthless contexts?

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Last modified 6 February 2002