Books: American Death Trips

THE WHITE ALBUM by Joan Didion; Simon & Schuster; 223 pages; $9.95

She stands there in her dust-jacket photograph, a tiny woman of 95 Ibs., with the figure of a spare 14-year-old. She stares out with the enormous, haunted eyes of a Keane waif, of a wounded bird, menaced and fragile. Readers who have grown over the years to admire the superb moody intelligence of Joan Didion's prose have first had to learn that this alarming vulnerability is an affectation and a part of her strategy as a writer. Despite all the fits of weeping...

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