Slouching Towards Bethlehem

Slouching Towards Bethlehem

Book - 2008
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The first nonfiction work by one of the most distinctive prose stylists of our era, Joan Didion's Slouching Towards Bethlehem remains, decades 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.
Publisher: New York : Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2008.
Edition: Pbk. edition
ISBN: 9780374531386
0374531382
Branch Call Number: 814.54 DIDION J
Characteristics: xiv, 238 pages ; 21 cm.

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Indoorcamping
Jul 26, 2018

Finally read this classic for my own enjoyment, and let me tell you, it was enjoyable and worth the wait. Something beautiful happens when you read a book written in a different time and that narrator brings you there, living at that moment, with those people who react through that timeframe, bringing history alive so brilliantly that you can almost smell the perfume, the dust, and the marijuana. (Okay, I live across from Golden Gate park. I smell that every day, even now.)

Every story is a beautiful adventure through someone else's strange, mistake-laden situation and story they've created to justify their actions. Actions such as killing your husband, giving your young child drugs, you know - the early sixties. Not sure I wanted to really live in this moment in time, but it was eye-opening and brought so much perspective to the era, to what people thought and how they reacted and why they did what they did. After half a century, it's easy to understand the present as a reaction to this expanse of post-war "freedom."

Nothing is more interesting than a Joan Didion perspective on what could have been a regular newspaper story. There is glamour, drama, oddness, peculiarity, creativity, uniqueness, and something you just can't name about what she brings to narration. It's breathtaking to be riding through the story, regardless of the subject and situation.

Still kind of freaked out about young 1960's mothers and the horrible things they made their little children live through, though. Overreaction to strict parenting is overreaction, as well.

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dennismmiller
Dec 26, 2017

Slouching Towards Bethlehem collects a series of Joan Didion's short essays from the 1960s, covering subjects from Alcatraz to Howard Hughes to the CPUSA, but mostly herself and triple-faced California - LA, San Francisco, and Sacramento.

The title essay relates the author's experiences exploring Haight-Ashbury during the Summer of Love, which exemplifies her overarching (but not overpowering) theme of the emptiness at the heart of '60s America, an emptiness so profound that even those who feel it - like those San Francisco hippies - lack the words to describe it or the means to escape it. Yet the most remarkable piece may be "On Morality", in which she diagnoses American post-War social fragmentation, not as the result of a lack of morality, but the surfeit of it - innumerable competing individual moralities each demanding validation.

o
Orcacreative
Apr 03, 2016

A literary gem. On Keeping a Notebook; On Self-Respect and On Morality, insightful and personal, great essays.

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DBRL_ReginaF Jul 25, 2018

The center was not holding. It was a country of bankruptcy notices and public-auction announcements and commonplace reports of casual killings and misplaced children and abandoned homes and vandals who misplaced even the four-letter words they scrawled. It was a country in which families routinely disappeared, trailing bad checks and repossession papers. Adolescents drifted from city to torn city, sloughing off both the past and the future as snakes shed their skins, children who were never taught and would never now learn the games that had held the society together. People were missing. Children were missing. Parents were missing. Those left behind filed desultory missing- persons reports, then moved on themselves.

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