Slouching Towards Bethlehem by Joan Didion
"Didion's essays of a world featuring barricades and bombings, mass murders and kidnapped heiresses make recent history as filtered through her seem a savage and passionate drama, something you can put a hand on and feel it beating, something you can put your ear to and hear its story." - Village Voice
"Brilliant, troubling, indelible tales and reflections." - San Diego Tribune
"Reveals a wholly original analytic mind, a sensibility as expansive and idiosyncratic as a 19th-century novelist's." - Mona Simpson
"Our quintessential essayist." - Jerry Kosinski, LA Times
From the back of the book:
Joan Didion's savage masterpiece, which, since first publication in 1968, has been acknowledged as an unparalleled report on the state of America during the upheaval of the Sixties Revolution.
We forget all too soon the things we thought we could never forget. We forget the loves and the betrayals alike, forget what we whispered and what we screamed, forget who we were
In her non-fiction work, Joan Didion not only describes the subject at hand – her younger self loving and leaving New York, the murderous housewife, the little girl trailing the rock group, the millionaire bunkered in his mansion – but also offers a broader vision of the world, one that is both terrifying and tender, ominous and uniquely her own.
My Review: (3 / 5 stars)
This was a series of essays written by a journalist in the 1960's. Although some of the stories were interesting, I felt somewhat removed from much of the subject matter as she mentioned people that would most likely have been contemporaries at the time, but not notable in today's world. I decided not to google the many names that came up for a history lesson and take the essays at face value instead.
A few of the essays, especially in the last half of the book, were much more commentary on human nature and therefore applicable at any time. I found these stories more insightful and there were moments of beautiful writing. In the end, this book of essays which were supposed to describe other people and places was a mirror of Joan Didion's own life. Many of the last essays, told through her far from rose tinted glasses, resulted in a scathing reviews of people and places around her.
This was an interesting departure from the fictional novels we have been reading, but given the stressful times we are in, it was definitely not an uplifting novel that transported me to the swinging 60s as much as it was a critical, albeit sometimes poetically critical, view of the world.