Let Me Tell You What I Mean

Knopf. Jan. 2021. 192p. ISBN 9780593318485. $23. LIT
Didion’s latest book of essays is engrossing, memorable, and delightful. The pieces are not new, but newly collected, dating between 1968 and 2000, though they are remarkably consistent and relevant throughout. Subjects vary widely, from the posthumous publication of Ernest Hemingway’s works and the complicated business personality of Martha Stewart, to visiting the Hearst Castle in San Simeon and attending photo shoots for Vogue. All are written with sincerity and with Didion’s powerful sense of astute observation, as she describes her influences, worries, and occasionally fears. Readers can judge for themselves their own standout essay from the collection, but surely “Why I Write” will be a strong contender. Several pieces in this volume attend to the craft and purpose of writing, and in this one especially Didion candidly shows her devotion to writing and explains her own place and purpose as a writer.
VERDICT 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.
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