Analysis of Joan Didion’s Novels

Almost all of Joan Didion’s (1934-) works are concerned with similar themes, and there is an interesting complementary relationship between her essays and her novels. Her essays generally seem intended to force the reader to strip away illusions about contemporary life and accept realities, even if they are bleak. The novels are generally explorations of characters crippled by illusions. To some extent, in each novel, the heroine is disabused of her illusions. The fragile hope that each novel holds out, however, is not offered in terms of this disillusionment but in terms of new illusions and almost meaningless gestures. Each novel ends with the heroine learning to care for others—for a husband, for a lover, for children, for friends—and yet this caring is generally based on illusion and seems doomed to failure. Didion’s final implication, then, seems to be that people need to strip away all illusions, except those that help them to care for others. Such illusions—even though they are doomed to lead to failure—are sacred. These sacred illusions might be fictional, as stories are fictional, but, as Didion has said, “We tell ourselves stories in order to live . . . or at least we do for a while.”

Although Didion’s first novel, Run River, is not autobiographical, it does explore the myth she absorbed in her childhood, the myth of America as the new Eden, the new Promised Land. This myth was brought to the New World by the earliest settlers of Virginia and Massachusetts, but it took special form with the westward expansion. Lily Knight, the heroine of Run River, expresses her faith directly: “She believed that it was America’s mission to make manifest to the world the wishes of an Episcopal God, [and] that her father would one day be Governor of California.” The novel can be quickly summarized. It begins—and finally ends—on the night that Everett McClellan, Lily’s husband, kills Ryder Channing, Lily’s lover, and then himself. The novel backtracks to trace the lives of the main characters and returns full circle to the murder and suicide. Along the way, it suggests that Lily, Everett, and Everett’s sister Martha have been shattered because of a misplaced faith in traditional, romantic notions about their lives and about their home, the Sacramento Valley.

Lily, after she admits to herself that she probably will not be offered the lead role in Gone with the Wind, accepts a traditional, passive woman’s role. After passively “accepting” Everett twenty-seven times, she agrees to marry him: “It seemed as inescapable as the ripening of the pears, as fated as the exile from Eden.” However, she finds the role of river matron less than satisfactory, and she continues to accept men—first Joe Templeton and later Ryder Channing—for little more reason than that they desire her. Through it all, Lily fails to come to terms with who she is and what she really wants.

The traditional dream of ranch and family no longer works for Everett, either. Ironically, he seems happy only when he runs away from the ranch, his wife, and his sister, to join the army during World War II. When his father dies, however, he feels bound by duty to return to the ranch, to try to make it work, and to take care of his wife and sister. It does not work; his wife is unfaithful, his sister is destroyed by the “lack of honor” in the world, and his son obviously intends to abandon the homestead.

Martha, Everett’s sister, is perhaps the most utterly destroyed character in the novel. She cannot act out her incestuous feelings for her brother, and the man she does accept for a lover, Ryder Channing, is no gentleman. After he marries another woman and their affair ends, he almost brutally “seduces” her again. Martha is forced to admit that she is not a “lady”—their affair had not been a great romantic passion, but what advice columnist Ann Landers might describe as “chemistry.” Stripped of her illusions, she cannot live. Her brother cannot protect her—a fact that will make him, a romantic gallant, feel even more guilty—and she kills herself.

All of the romantic illusions of the traditional world come crashing down when Everett kills Ryder Channing and then himself. It could be argued that it is not the traditional world that has failed these characters; it is rather that they have failed it. After all, a good river matron should not have an affair while her husband is serving his country; Everett should have been stronger; and Martha should have had more self-respect than to take up with a man such as Ryder. Such an argument, however, would simply ignore too much of the characters’ background. Lily’s father, Walter Knight, was not so shining as Lily had thought. He does not become governor of California. He is a near alcoholic, and he carries on an adulterous relationship with Rita Blanchard, another “good spinster” who proves no better and no worse than Martha. Walter is no more a rancher than Everett; his Mexican foreman Gomez is the one who keeps the place going. Finally, he can no more protect his Rita than Everett can protect Martha; both he and Rita drown when he accidentally drives into the Sacramento River.

The novel, then, shows the myth of the Sacramento Valley as a second Eden to be a second-generation failure. The book might seem to imply that it is World War II that renders this idyllic world “gone with the wind,” but it is doubtful that Didion believes that things were really better in the old days. Her vision of the settling of the West seems centered on the Donner-Reed party; her great-great-great grandmother had been part of that party originally, but she left it before they were stranded by winter snows and forced to eat their own dead to survive. In her essay “On Morality,” Didion equates morality with not leaving the dead to the coyotes, and she writes of the Donner-Reed party: “We were taught instead that they had somewhere abdicated their responsibilities, somehow breached their primal loyalties or they would not have found themselves helpless in the mountain winter . . . would not have failed.” At the end of Run River, all three major characters have failed to live up to their primal loyalties of wife to husband, husband to wife, brother to sister, sister to sister-in-law. They have been “immoral,” not because of their sexual misconduct but because they have failed to take care of one another.

There is, perhaps, some hope for Lily at the end. She has survived, not by virtue but by luck, and she may have learned. Looking at Everett’s body, she finally—perhaps for the first time—tries to talk to him. She recalls the good times and realizes the importance of their love: “She hoped that . . . he would rise thinking of her, we were each other, we were each other, not that it mattered much in the long run but what else mattered as much.” “Not that it mattered much” is vintage Didion, but the “what else mattered as much” seems heartfelt. The hope that lovers will rise thinking of each other “through all eternity” has the ring of romantic illusion, but at this point, such a hope constitutes the only possible relationship left for Lily and Everett. At the end of the novel, she is left thinking about what she will say to her children. To sustain them, she will probably be compelled to sustain an illusion about the man she has come to love too late: “She did not know what she could tell anyone except that he had been a good man. She was not certain that he had been but it was what she would have wished for him, if they gave her one wish.”

The ease with which Run River can be explained as an explosion of traditional American myths probably suggests why the novel is generally considered Didion’s most modest achievement. So many people have exploded traditional American myths since 1963 that it does not seem necessary to reread Run River to see it done again. In Play It as It Lays, however, Didion does something few writers have done as well as she; she turns the tables and explodes the myths and illusions of the contemporary sensibility.

Play It as It Lays
Perhaps no setting could be more appropriate for an illusionhunter than Los Angeles. In Play It as It Lays, Didion places her heroine Maria (pronounced “Mar-eye-ah,” like the west wind in the musical Paint Your Wagon) squarely in the fast lane of life in Southern California. The novel opens with Maria in a psychiatric ward. She has been placed there, presumably, for her failure to attempt to stop a friend from committing suicide in her presence. As the novel unfolds (like Run River) backward into the past, however, the reader comes to realize that if Maria has become unhinged, it is probably a result of the cumulative effect of her abortion, her divorce, and the miscellaneous acts of casual sex, drugs, and other perversities one might expect in a novel about Hollywood.

Didion does not condemn the fast lane from a traditional moral perspective; that would have been too easy, and probably not very convincing or interesting. Besides, Didion’s target is not simply the sexual mores of contemporary culture. Rather, she explores the popular “philosophy” or worldview that so many have accepted since the collapse of the traditional morality—a “philosophy” that might be called sloppy existentialism, extreme relativism, or simply nihilism. Maria states the key tenet of this philosophy on the second page of the novel: “NOTHING APPLIES.”

Maria herself was not reared with the traditional American values. Instead of the Puritan work ethic (“God helps those who help themselves”), she was taught the gambler’s code: “My father advised me that life itself was a crap game.” That view was infused with a faith in good luck: “I was raised to believe that what came in on the next roll would always be better than what went on the last.” For a long time, Maria was content to wait for the rolls, to go with the flow, and to “play it as it lays.”

However, Maria’s luck runs out. The bad roll is an unwanted pregnancy. She thinks, but is not sure, that Carter, her husband, is not the father. He demands that she have an abortion and threatens to take away Kate, their brain-damaged daughter, if she refuses. Maria acquiesces, and her mental deterioration begins.

If Maria could completely accept the mores of her set, she would have no problem; for them, neither abortion nor divorce is anything to lose one’s composure over. Maria, however, does cling to one traditional dream; she wants a family. She fantasizes about living a simple life with Kate and some man—in almost identical fantasies, the man is either Ivan or Les, two of her steadier lovers. Abortion—the termination of another possible child—is almost more than Maria can contemplate, yet she undergoes the procedure.

Maria’s reaction to the abortion is not philosophical, moral, or religious; it is emotional, physical, and psychological. She cries; she hemorrhages; she reaches a point where she cannot easily use plumbing because she imagines pipes clogged with chopped-up pieces of flesh.

Didion does not attempt to make an abstract moral issue out of abortion. Maria’s reaction is almost primitive, in the sense of being immediate and unreflecting. In a real sense, however, to return to Didion’s essay “On Morality,” abortion is a denial of the most basic social responsibility, that of mother to child (it is hard here not to recall Didion’s own traumatic miscarriage and her devotion to her adopted daughter). In Play It as It Lays, even more emphatically than in Run River, characters fail to fulfil their primal social responsibilities. Carter, Les (even Les’s wife), Maria’s friends, Helene and BZ, and a number of others all say that they are “seriously worried” about Maria as she slips more and more into self-destructive behavior; they say that they care, but none of them can reach her, none of them can take care of her. Some of their protestations are hard to take seriously; Carter humiliates Maria on a number of occasions, and Helene and BZ use her—while she is drunk and only halfconscious— for obscure and unpleasant sexual purposes.

Most of these characters profess not to be concerned with the sexual conduct of their spouses. When Helene, BZ’s wife, drifts into an affair with Carter, BZ asks Maria if she cares. For a time, Maria tries to insist that she does care, but as the novel draws to a conclusion, BZ forces her more and more to a nihilistic position: “‘Tell me what matters,’ BZ said. ‘Nothing,’ Maria said.” The “nothing” here is Ernest Hemingway’s “nada,” and at the end of the novel, BZ, like Hemingway, kills himself. BZ, however, does not use a gun. He goes out with a bottle of vodka and a grain-and-a-half of Seconal. When Helene and Carter force their way into the room, BZ is dead and Maria is asleep next to him, holding his hand.

On the last page of the novel, Maria, from the psychiatric ward, affirms BZ’s nihilism, if not his suicide: “I know what ‘nothing’ means, and keep on playing. Why, BZ would say. Why not, I say.” That, however, is not all there is to it. Maria has already made it clear that she is playing for Kate. She wants to take Kate away from the hospital; she wants them to have a home by the sea where they can live a simple life. Given Kate’s condition—to say nothing of Maria’s—this future does not sound very likely. Despite her acceptance of nihilism, Maria holds on to one last romantic notion. Perhaps she realizes how illusory her hope is, but, like Lily’s hope that Everett will rise thinking of her, the illusion and the hope are necessary. They keep her in the game and away from the Seconal.

A Book of Common Prayer
Run River and Play It as It Lays demonstrate the failures both of traditional American myths and of more current nihilistic lifestyles. Lily Knight McClellan and Maria Wyeth both survive, but both are sustained by hopes that seem largely based on illusion. In Didion’s third novel, A Book of Common Prayer, the reader is told on the first page that the protagonist, Charlotte Douglas, does not survive. The narrator, however, comments that “she died, hopeful.” Whether Charlotte’s hope is also illusory is a central question of the novel.

It is the question that the narrator, Grace Strasser-Mendana, née Tabor, is trying to answer throughout the novel. Grace, originally from the United States, “married into one of the three or four solvent families in Boca Grande,” the small Central American republic in which Charlotte Douglas is finally killed (or murdered; as Grace says, neither word seems to work). The death of Grace’s husband has left her “in putative control of fifty-nine-point-eight percent of the arable land and about the same percentage of the decisionmaking process in La Rep±blica.” From this position of power, Grace observes the political scheming of her family. She also watches Charlotte walk barefooted into the scene and become caught up in it. Grace leaves the country before Charlotte dies, and the novel is her attempt to understand Charlotte. As she says, “Call it my witness to Charlotte Douglas.”

At the very beginning of her witness, Grace comments that Charlotte “dreamed her life,” and much of what Grace says makes Charlotte seem a woman even more given to illusion than was Lily Knight McClellan or Maria Wyeth. Grace insists that Charlotte was the “usual child of comfortable family in the temperate zone.” She had been supplied with all the material benefits and easy optimism of an affluent American. As a child, she was given a carved Austrian angel that listened to her bedside prayers: “In these prayers the child Charlotte routinely asked that ‘it’ turn out all right, ‘it’ being unspecified and all-inclusive, and she had been an adult for some years before the possibility occurred to her that ‘it’ might not.”

Like Maria, Charlotte loses some of the optimism; her luck runs out. The more traditional lifestyle fails her. Her first husband, Warren Bogart (perhaps the name is meant to be halfway between Warren Beatty and Humphrey Bogart), had been “raised to believe not in ‘hard work’ or ‘self reliance’ but in the infinite power of the personal appeal.” He is also sadistic, sexually perverse, and alcoholic. Charlotte is not perfect, either; one Easter, while their child Marin is still a baby, she gets drunk and sleeps with a man she does not even like (she later conveniently forgets the episode). Warren hits her, and she finally walks away from the marriage.

Her second marriage is not unlike Maria’s life in the fast lane, except that the game is no longer motion pictures but radical politics. Her husband is not a director but a radical chic lawyer who flies from one center of revolution to another. Leonard does seem genuinely to care for Charlotte, but there are complications. Marin, Charlotte’s child by Warren, turns revolutionary; she and her friends hijack a jetliner, burn it in the desert, and join the underground.

Charlotte’s main illusion, like Maria’s, is centered around her daughter. She later tells Grace that she and Marin were “inseparable” (a term she also uses to describe her relationship with Warren), and she spins out fantastic accounts of their visit to the Tivoli Gardens. As might be expected, the revolutionary Marin claims to have little use for her bourgeois mother.

All this does seem After a disastrous reunion with Warren and after the birth and almost immediate death of her child by Leonard, Charlotte drifts to Boca Grande, where she meets Grace. At first, Charlotte gives Grace every reason to think that she is dreaming her life; for quite a while, she goes to the airport every day, on the offhand chance that Marin will pass through Central America; she drifts aimlessly into sexual relations with Victor, Grace’s brother-in-law, and then with Gerardo, Grace’s son; she seems not to notice the growing signs of revolution; she refuses the attempts of Gerardo, Leonard, and Grace to persuade her to leave; finally, the revolution begins, and she is arrested and killed. Her body is dumped on the lawn of the American embassy. All this does seem to add up to a life of dreams and illusions, yet throughout the novel, Charlotte proves herself to be capable of very practical behavior. She kills a chicken with her bare hands; she skins an iguana for stew; she performs an emergency tracheotomy with a penknife; and she inoculates people against an epidemic of cholera for thirty-four hours without a break. Although Charlotte often seems not to notice what is going on around her, she corrects people who claim to know what is happening; she reminds a reporter that Marin’s comrade killed himself in Arizona, not Mexico, and she later corrects Gerardo on a technical point: “‘Carmen wasn’t using an M-3.’ Charlotte said. She leaned forward slightly and her face was entirely grave. ‘Antonio was. Carmen was using an M-16.’”

If Charlotte is not as out of touch as she seems, why then does she stay in Boca Grande and risk her life? In her last conversation with Leonard, she says very simply, “I walked away from places all my life and I’m not going to walk away from here.” In another context, one could imagine John Wayne speaking those lines. In this context, however, there is no sense of the heroic. For a moment, Leonard seems to misunderstand this, and he warns her, “You don’t get any real points for staying here, Charlotte.” Charlotte understands perfectly: “‘I can’t seem to tell what you do get the real points for,’ Charlotte said. ‘So I guess I’ll stick around for a while.’” Didion does not glorify Charlotte’s decision to stay; it is not a self-defining existential act. She simply returns to her work at a birth-control clinic (an ironic job for a woman whose passport lists her occupation as madre). Her work is not particularly meaningful, since Charlotte routinely advises women to use the diaphragm while the clinic stocks only intrauterine devices (IUD’s). In any event, no clients come on Charlotte’s last day of work, the last day of her life. In deciding to stay, Charlotte maintains something of her integrity, what Didion would call “character,” but Didion allows the reader no illusions about the act; it is the integrity of a cardplayer playing out a losing hand.

Charlotte’s integrity can only be appreciated in comparison to the values of the other characters, particularly Grace. Even though Grace has been trying to understand Charlotte throughout the novel, she is as much a victim of delusion as Charlotte is. For some time, Grace has realized the difficulty in understanding things, in trying to get the story straight. She had abandoned her first discipline before the beginning of the novel: “I am an anthropologist who lost faith in her own method, who stopped believing that observable activity defined anthros.” She turned to biochemistry, but that, too, failed: “Give me the molecular structure of the protein that defined Charlotte Douglas.” When Leonard reveals to her that her husband Edgar had been involved with the guerrillas himself, Grace is finally forced to realize that her life, as much as Charlotte’s, has been one of delusion.

Grace’s statement, “We all remember what we need to remember,” is one of the lessons of the novel; all people prefer to believe their own versions of the stories in which they are trapped; all people accept delusions. Grace finally realizes that, “I am more like Charlotte Douglas than I thought I was.” Perhaps Charlotte’s death was something of a meaningless gesture, but beside her coffin, Grace can only make a small meaningless gesture of love; she places a T-shirt painted like an American flag on the casket. By way of comment, she borrows a phrase from Charlotte and Leonard: “There were no real points in that either.”

Neither Grace nor Charlotte—perhaps none of Didion’s characters in any of her novels—scores any real points in the end. They try to take care of one another, but they fail. Grace and Leonard try to take care of Charlotte, but they fail. Charlotte would like to take care of Marin, but she cannot.Warren wants Charlotte to take care of him, but it does not work. As cynical as Warren is, he may have the final judgment in the novel: “It doesn’t matter whether you take care of somebody or somebody takes care of you. . . . It’s all the same in the end. It’s all the same.”Warren dies alone; Charlotte dies alone. Grace will die—as she says—very soon, and she will be alone. It is all the same in the end. At least Charlotte does to some degree shape her own life toward the end. The night she was arrested, she was, Grace imagines, “walking very deliberately.”

The protagonist of Didion’s fourth novel, Democracy, is Inez Christian Victor, the daughter of a prominent Honolulu family and the wife of a liberal California senator who narrowly lost the Democratic nomination for president in 1972. The love of her life, however, is a shadowy soldier of fortune named Jack Lovett. She follows him to Southeast Asia on the eve of the fall of Vietnam (to retrieve her daughter— a heroin addict who has drifted to Saigon because she hears that employment opportunities are good there) and sees him drown in a hotel pool in Jakarta. She brings the body back to Hawaii to be buried under a jacaranda tree at Schofield Barracks and returns to Kuala Lumpur to work with refugees.

In Democracy, one finds evidence of two of Didion’s most prominent characteristics as a writer—her acute sense of place and her fascination with the AmericanWest. Although these twin aspects of her muse have always been evident in her writings about California, she has occasionally cast her glance farther westward to Hawaii. In Slouching Towards Bethlehem, she wrote: “I sat as a child on California beaches and imagined that I saw Hawaii, a certain shimmer in the sunset, a barely perceptible irregularity glimpsed intermittently through squinted eyes.” In a column for New West magazine, written more than a decade later, she revealed that she kept a clock in her bedroom in Los Angeles, set at Honolulu time.

When Didion, however, tried to write a novel about feudal Hawaii (originally titled Pacific Distances), she produced a book that is only marginally about that subject. In Democracy, Hawaii is less important as a society in transition than as a way station between the Mainland and America’s ultimate western frontier, Southeast Asia. (In Slouching Towards Bethlehem, she speaks of sailors who got drunk in Honolulu because “they were no longer in Des Moines and not yet in Da Nang.”) As Walt Whitman pro- claimed more than a century earlier in his poem “Passage to India” (1871), the roundness of the earth leads not to some apocalyptic West but back east whence we came. America’s manifest destiny, however, has not even produced a mystical passage to India, but rather helicopters lifting off the roof of the American embassy in Saigon during the final days of the only war the United States has ever lost.

In this imagistic, elliptical novel, much is left to conjecture. More than in any of her previous works, Didion has helped fuel this conjecture by an almost compulsive literary allusiveness. Certainly the most significant allusion is to Henry Adams, who in 1880 published a novel titled Democracy. Although in her review of Didion’s novel Mary McCarthy made nothing of the novels having the same name, Thomas R. Edwards saw both Didion and Adams as displaced aristocrats who with “irony and subtlety confront a chaotic new reality that shatters the orderings of simpler, older ways.”

From a purely technical standpoint, the most controversial and problematic aspect of Democracy is its point of view. Departing from the more conventional narrative techniques of her earlier novels, Didion inserts herself into Democracy and claims to have been acquainted personally with her characters. Although this device may appear to make Didion’s tale a postmodernist novel about novel writing, it also places her in the decidedly premodernist company of George Eliot and William Makepeace Thackeray, who both inserted themselves into their fiction.

By revealing her problems in writing this book and by treating her characters as if they were as real as the figures in her journalism, Didion may be trying to collapse the distinction between fiction and nonfiction narrative. If the new journalism brings the techniques of fiction to the writing of fact, this novel brings the illusion of fact to the writing of fiction. Such a device is for Democracy what the title A Book of Common Prayer was for Didion’s earlier novel—a reason for telling the story.

The Last Thing He Wanted
InThe Last Thing He Wanted, Didion’s technique of writing fiction as though it were fact becomes much more assured. She creates a journalist narrator who claims not only to be the novel’s author but also to have written about one of the story’s characters for The New York Times Magazine, the type of highprofile periodical in which readers would expect to find an article by the real Joan Didion. In contrast to Democracy, however, Didion does not identify herself as the narrator. “For the record,” she writes, “this is me talking. You know me, or you think youdo. The not quite omniscient author.” Readers may be tempted to think that the “me” refers to Didion herself, but the novel’s characters are clearly fictional, and thenarrator belongs to the same created world as the characters. Instead, the “me” seems to refer more to the idea of the narrator as “not quite omniscient author.” Unlike true omniscient authors, who know everything that goes on in their stories, this narrator-author has a limited view. She must piece together the story of Elena McMahon, the novel’s heroine, from transcripts of tape recordings, news articles, diplomatic reports, and interviews with not always truthful sources.

Out of these fragments the narrator-author constructs a story that explains Elena’s mysterious death. After she walks away from her job covering the 1984 presidential campaign for The Washington Post, her seriously ill father, who is an arranger of ambiguous “deals,” asks her to fly to the Caribbean to deliver something for him. The plane does not land exactly where Elena expects it to, and the something turns out to be illegal arms for the Contras, a counterrevolutionary group that opposed the Sandinista government of Nicaragua during the 1980’s. After Elena reads in a U.S. paper that her father has suddenly died, she (along with the reader) realizes  that her life is in extraordinary danger. Ultimately, she is framed for an assassination attempt on Treat Morrison, a U.S. operative with whom Elena has a fleeting romance. The attempt ends with Elena shot dead and Morrison gravely wounded. The novel itself ends two brief chapters later, as the narrator-author tries to reshape the story so that it ends with Elena and Morrison still together, a form the story’s narrator-author finds more pleasing than the “actual” one.

Perhaps Didion’s greatest achievement in this novel is the complexity that she wrings out of its lean, deceptively easy-to-read prose. Although several critics during  the 1990’s noted that her fiction was becoming ever more spare and her nonfiction was growing in length and density, The Last Thing He Wanted merges both characteristics. The novel’s language makes it seem simple on its surface, but keeping track of the story requires the reader to maneuver through murky, difficult-to-follow conspiracies involving rival government factions, just as did the actual 1980’s news coverage of alleged (and illegal) U.S. government support of the Contras. Although not all critics believed that the novel broke new ground for Didion, its reviews were mostly positive—atribute to Didion’s position as one of the most highly regarded writers of her generation.


Major works
Long fiction Run River, 1963; Play It as It Lays, 1970; A Book of Common Prayer, 1977; Democracy, 1984; The Last Thing He Wanted, 1996.
Short fiction: The Panic in Needle Park, 1971 (with John Gregory Dunne); Play It as It Lays, 1972 (with Dunne); A Star Is Born, 1976 (with Dunne and Frank Pierson); True Confessions, 1981 (with Dunne); Up Close and Personal, 1996 (with Dunne).
Teleplays: Hills Like White Elephants, 1990 (with John Gregory Dunne); Broken Trust, 1995 (with Dunne).
Nonfiction: Slouching Towards Bethlehem, 1968; The White Album, 1979; Salvador, 1983; Joan Didion: Essays and Conversations, 1984 (Ellen G. Friedman, editor); Miami, 1987; After Henry, 1992 (also known as Sentimental Journeys, 1993); Political Fictions, 2001; Fixed Ideas: America Since 9-11, 2003; Where I Was From, 2003; Vintage Didion, 2004; The Year of Magical Thinking, 2005; We Tell Ourselves Stories in Order to Live: Collected Nonfiction, 2006.

Source: Notable American Novelists Revised Edition Volume 1 James Agee — Ernest J. Gaines Edited by Carl Rollyson Salem Press, Inc 2008.

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