THE AMERICAN AUTHOR JOAN DIDION INTRODUCES THE WHITE ALBUM, HER COLLECTION OF NON-FICTION ESSAYS ON THE LATE 1960s, BY DESCRIBING THE IMPORTANCE OF THE FOUNDATIONAL STORIES WE “TELL OURSELVES IN ORDER TO LIVE.” THESE CONSTRUCTED TALES, SHE WRITES, ORDER OUR WORLD AND VEIL IT IN SAFETY. SHE PUNCTUATES THIS POINT BY ERUDITELY ANALYZING THE HAPPENINGS — FROM ROBERT KENNEDY’S ASSASSINATION TO THE MANSON TRIAL — OF A TINDERBOX ERA THAT SHOOK AMERICA AND ITS PRESCRIBED HISTORIES TO THEIR CORE.
Didion lived out the majority of this disorienting period in Los Angeles, California, the same city that serves as the backdrop of Italian screen and fiction writer Chiara Barzini’s debut novel: Things that Happened Before the Earthquake. Opening a few weeks before the city’s infamous riots of ’92, the novel, which loosely draws from Chiara’s own adolescence, similarly analyzes the necessary recalculations that occur when current events, aptly including the book’s namesake 1994 earthquake, demand a fundamental reconstruction of our personal and shared narratives.
WHAT ADVICE WOULD YOU GIVE YOUR 13-YEAR-OLD SELF?
Nobody believes your push-up bra breasts.
IF YOU COULD RE-LIVE ONE DAY IN YOUR LIFE, WHAT WOULD IT BE?
A birthday party celebration, at seven years old. From one day to the next, I ceased to be a total outcast because I proved that I could run very fast while balancing a potato on a spoon.
A PLACE YOU'VE CALLED HOME
New York City. When I lived there, I saw it through my grandfather's words and images. He took this one in 1933.
A PLACE YOU GO TO WRITE
My writing studio in Trastevere (Rome).
A PLACE YOU GO TO ESCAPE
A SONG THAT REMINDS YOU OF LOS ANGELES
A SONG THAT REMINDS YOU OF ROME
AN AUTHOR YOU ADMIRE
A LIFE-CHANGING BOOK
L’Isola di Arturo by Elsa Morante
WHY DO YOU WRITE?
It’s the only way to reveal what one is ashamed to reveal.
HOW HAS HAVING CHILDREN CHANGED YOU?
I have less time to lose time and, therefore, have discovered the power of valuing every single minute of my creative life (no Wi-Fi), plus love as an infinite problem-solving resource.
SOMEONE YOU LOVE
Anita, my daughter, my partner Luca and son Seb. I can't pick one!
WHO HAS BEEN YOUR GREATEST TEACHER?
Stella Pacific: the first person who told me I could be a writer even though I was dyslexic.
YOUR MOST IRRESISTIBLE VICE
Morning salt baths in the winter, plus pasta, butter and parmigiano as a mid-morning snack.
A RECIPE YOU WILL PASS ON TO YOUR CHILDREN
Pasta alla Norma, a fried eggplant dish I inherited from my mother’s mother.
A FILM THAT CAPTURES YOUR TEENAGE SELF
AN IMAGE THAT CAPTURES A DREAM
Most of Jasmine Golestaneh's amazing artworks. This one in particular has always made me think of what it feels like to navigate two worlds in dream-logic terms; I often dream about two conflicting worlds in one harmonized place.
WHAT DO YOU LOVE ABOUT ITALY?
The pace of it, the rhythm, the Mediterranean Sea.
WHAT DO YOU LOVE ABOUT AMERICA?
The light, the speed, the no-bullshit communication.
HOW DO YOU DEFINE FREEDOM?
A NOTE ON YOUR PHONE
Pizza order for my family in Rome...
A PICTURE OF YOUR TRUE SELF
A portrait by the amazing Don Bachardy who created it by happenstance at his home in Santa Monica in May 2017, when I went to visit him for some writing research.
A SONG THAT DESCRIBES YOUR MOOD TODAY
I just cried re-watching it to answer this question...
WHAT THE FUTURE LOOKS LIKE