No Narrative or New Narrative in Didion's White Album

Jeffrey Fronza, English 171, Sages and Satirists, Brown University, 2002

In what would probably be the middle of my life I wanted still to believe in the narrative and the narrative's intelligibility, but to know that one could change the sense with every cut was to begin to perceive the experience as rather more electrical than ethical (13)... This may be a parable, either of my life as a reporter during this period or of the period itself (36) . . . The startling fact was this: my body was offering a precise physiological equivalent to what had been going on in my mind. 'Lead a simple life,' the neurologist advised. 'Not that it makes any difference we know about.' In other words it was another story without a narrative." [47]

Can we, as readers, accept Didion as a truth-teller in her first essay? Is she writing nonfiction, or is she fictionalizing herself in addition to the times in which she lived? Should we accept her assertion that she is telling a "story without a narrative", or is she in fact constructing a particular type of "nonfiction" narrative in spite of her assertion to the contrary? Do the categories of paranoia and delusion help us understand Didion, or does she successfully evade our attempts to label her?


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Last modified 6 February 2002