Books: The Imagination of Disaster

A BOOK OF COMMON PRAYER

by JOAN DIDION 272 pages. Simon & Schuster. $8.95.

Novelists who have trained as journalists can usually be identified by their lack of plumage. There is something about trying to interpret the world in narrow columns that keeps the feathers compact and flat. Sentences tend to dart rather than gyrate. Effects are sought with tone and timing; ironies are implied, not spelled out. Anyone who has followed Joan Didion's career as a magazine writer can easily discern the newsprint between her fine lines. Slouching Towards Bethlehem, a collection of...

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