on the shelf: slouching towards bethlehem

Slouching Towards Bethlehem by Joan Didion
ISBN-13: 9780374531386

Synopsis: "The first nonfiction work by one of the most distinctive prose stylists of our era, Slouching Towards Bethlehem remains, forty years after its first publication, the essential portrait of America— particularly California—in the sixties. It focuses on such subjects as John Wayne and Howard Hughes, growing up a girl in California, ruminating on the nature of good and evil in a Death Valley motel room, and, especially, the essence of San Francisco’s Haight-Ashbury, the heart of the counterculture.

The classic collection of essays in social change -- from Haight-Ashbury to our own inner landscapes -- by the author of A Book of Common Prayer, Salvador, and Miami."

Review: This is the first Joan Didion that I bought and read right away. I'm so glad that I did because I flew through it. Joan has a way with words that they're rather straight-forward, almost journalistic in its matter-of-fact manner, but it's also got personality. It's as if Joan revealed parts of herself in each essay. I enjoyed the book as a whole, but I think I'm going to wax poetic about my two favorite essays: Slouching Towards Bethlehem and On Keeping A Notebook. Slouching Towards Bethlehem reminded me a bit of On The Road. Not necessarily the subject matter, but the way it was written. Haight-Ashbury is thought to be a paradise of love, utopia for the counter-culture of that time. However, Didion points out some of the seedy, hellish things that plague this supposed utopia.

On Keeping A Notebook followed Slouching Towards Bethlehem. Once I finished that, I didn't think the book could get any better. On Keep A Notebook. She says she's never been able to be the person to record the days events, but instead records little bits of the day in her notebook. When she looks back on these notebooks, memories and questions are stirred up. She's able to recall a fully formed memories from short sentences. She also muses over the fact that some of these recordings in her notebook are irrelevant pieces of information. For example: ...do I really need to remember that Ambrose Bierce liked to spell Leland Standford's name £eland $tanford" or that "smart women almost always wear black in Cuba," a fashion hint without much potential for practical application.

This book is wonderful and really great if you want to get into Didion. I haven't read her biographies yet, but as soon as I am done with her novels and essays, it is right into the biographies.

1 comment

  1. I love Joan Didion! And your review. She is just a stunning writer, such talent! Thanks for your great review, I will definitely be following for more :)