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Joan Didion 

"The White Album," the title essay in Joan Didion's collection of essays spanning the 1960s and '70s, starts with a chronicle of the author's own mental breakdown. Clinging to obscure news stories — of a girl abandoned by her family, literally left on a California's Hwy. 5 outside of Bakersfield — and seeking out figures like Black Panther Eldridge Cleaver and Manson family member Linda Kasabian, she took a hard and leery look at the era's social and political changes. Skeptical of progress if not the prospects for humanity altogether, she concludes in "On the Morning After the Sixties," that if she thought going to a barricade to stage a protest would make a difference, she would have done it. In the decades since, Didion continued to read between the lines of newsprint to gauge the psyche of our culture ("Sentimental Journeys" about the Central Park jogger raped by a gang of boys) and politics (Miami). Didion cowrote screenplays with her husband John Gregory Dunne, and she authored several novels, some brimming with dark wit (Democracy). She often intruded on her own narratives to make herself part of the story. Within a short span in 2003, her daughter suddenly became severely ill and Dunne died of a heart attack. Didion published a memoir of the period, The Year of Magical Thinking, in which she illuminated the uncertainties of loss and grief and how she coped. It won the National Book Award and was adapted into a play. She reads from her work at Tulane. Free admission. — Will Coviello

7 p.m. Mon., April 6

Tulane University, McAlister Auditorium; www.tulane.edu

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