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SATURDAY

For decades, Joan Didion’s bright prose and incisive mind have inspired journalists and journal-keepers alike. With her new book, Political Fictions, the woman known for her ability to draw a bead on the most unlikely of subjects—from the wedding chapels in Las Vegas to the drug money of Miami—now aims at that small but highly visible group of journalists who, day by day and administration to administration, listen in on federal Washington, talk amongst themselves, then shape American politics instead of simply reporting on it. In this daunting collection of essays, originally written for the New York Review of Books over the past 13 years, Didion condemns the manner in which politicians and journalists talk to each other almost exclusively—and leave the general public out in the cold. She focuses her complaints by examining a number of critical events, including forgotten moments of Clinton’s first presidential campaign (remember Sister Souljah?), the barely remembered—but still horrifying—massacre at El Mozote in El Salvador in 1981, and the short-lived ascendancy of Newt Gingrich. Like David Halberstam’s latest (War in a Time of Peace: Bush, Clinton, and the Generals), Didion’s book is an eerily prescient road map to our current location, out of which we should learn to carve a foreign policy—from human realities rather than political strategy. Didion reads at 6 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 13, at Politics and Prose, 5015 Connecticut Ave. NW. Free. (202) 364-1919. (Robin Dougherty)