Joan Didion: The White Album 

First published in 1979, “The White Album “is a journalistic mosaic” “of American life in the late 1960s and throughout the 1970s. It includes, among other bizarre artifacts and personalities, reportage on the dark journeys and impulses of the Manson family, a visit to a Black Panther Party press conference, the story of John Paul Getty’s museum, a meditation on the romance of water in an arid landscape, and reflections on the swirl and confusion that marked this era. With commanding sureness of mood and language, Didion exposes the realities and dreams of an age of self-discovery whose spiritual center was California.

On Amazon
Find at your Local Library
20 Page Excerpt (PDF)

Further Writings: 

On Keeping a Notebook (PDF)
Goodbye to All That (From Slouching Towards Bethlehem (PDF)
On Why I Write (text)
Compilation of Texts Available Online (the Electric Typewriter)

Articles by Joan Didion (compiled by Open Culture

On Self Respect (Article)
The Women’s Movement (Article)
Eye on the Prize (Article)
The Teachings of Speaker Gingrich (Article)
Fixed Opinions, Or the Hinge of History (Article)
Politics in the New Normal America (Article)
The Case of Theresa Schiavo (Article)
The Deferential Spirit (Article)
California Notes (Article)

Additional Resources: 

Interview with Joan Didion, 1992 (video)
How Joan Didion the Writer Became Joan Didion the Legend (Vanity Fair)
The Elitist Allure of Joan Didion (The Atlantic)
The Radicalization of Joan Didion (The New Yorker)

Fairfield Porter: Art in its Own Terms

According to the important American poet John Ashbery, "To read Fairfield Porter is to rediscover art through the eyes of someone whose intuitive love and understanding of it has been matched by few contemporaries," while fellow New York School poet Barbara Guest wrote, "Blunt, intuitive, scholarly, inspired–I believe no other critic has so tackled the meaning of twentieth century art, has tightened our vision of it." Known as one of America's finest and most influential painters, Fairfield Porter (1907-1975) was also a prolific and highly insightful art critic. His writing not only reflects the independent, original mind that presided over his own visual works, but also covers an extraordinary period in American art, in which he played the double role of protagonist and witness. This new edition of "Art in Its Own Terms" restores to print a key statement in the ongoing discussion between Modern art and its past, as Porter reviews such figures as de Kooning, Johns, Cornell, Rodin, Cezanne, Leonardo and many others. Equally seminal are his considerations of the relations between art and science and art and politics. Rackstraw Downes' introduction beautifully sets the stage for this indispensable and wide-ranging volume.

On Amazon
Find at your Local Library

Additional Resources:
Material Witness: Selected Letters (PDF)
Digitized Selection: Fairfield Porter Papers (via Smithsonian)

Pierre Bourdieu: Distinction: A Social Critique of the Judgement of Taste

No judgement of taste is innocent. In a word, we are all snobs. Pierre Bourdieu brilliantly illuminates this situation of the middle class in the modern world. France's leading sociologist focusses here on the French bourgeoisie, its tastes and preferences. Distinction is at once a vast ethnography of contemporary France and a dissection of the bourgeois mind.
In the course of everyday life people constantly choose between what they find aesthetically pleasing and what they consider tacky, merely trendy, or ugly. Bourdieu bases his study on surveys that took into account the multitude of social factors that play a part in a Frenchperson's choice of clothing, furniture, leisure activities, dinner menus for guests, and many other matters of taste. What emerges from his analysis is that social snobbery is everywhere in the bourgeois world. The different aesthetic choices people make are all distinctions-that is, choices made in opposition to those made by other classes. Taste is not pure. Bourdieu finds a world of social meaning in the decision to order bouillabaisse, in our contemporary cult of thinness, in the "California sports" such as jogging and cross-country skiing. The social world, he argues, functions simultaneously as a system of power relations and as a symbolic system in which minute distinctions of taste become the basis for social judgement.
The topic of Bourdieu's book is a fascinating one: the strategies of social pretension are always curiously engaging. But the book is more than fascinating. It is a major contribution to current debates on the theory of culture and a challenge to the major theoretical schools in contemporary sociology.

On Amazon
Find at your Local Library
PDF

Further Readings Available as PDF
Language and Symbolic Power
The Logic of Practice
The Forms of Capital
Social Space and Symbolic Power

Additional Resources:
Routledge Profile of Pierre Bourdieu
Documentary: Sociology is a Martial Art (2002)