Title: Slouching Towards Bethlehem : Essays
Author: Joan Didion
Publisher: Picador Modern Classics
Genre: Essays, Non-Fiction
Rating: 5 Stars
I love Didion’s writing. So I may be biased, but that’s alright. I remember the first time I read Didion. It was “The Year of Magical Thinking” and I was floored. I was gutted as well, amongst other things that I was feeling as the book ended.
“Slouching Towards Bethlehem” is a collection of essays written in the 1960s, almost fifty years ago – a time and place that current readers have not and will not experience (not that I have as well). At the same time, somehow while reading the book, it all came alive right then and there. Didion paints not just one image but a landscape on paper. Her talent is truly timeless and every time she writes something, she almost supersedes the last piece/book.
Didion’s writing though may seem America-centric but is actually quite deceptive, in the sense, it encompasses the world-view which you only understand after a couple of essays. Maybe that’s why (one of the many reasons for sure) that this book was the one that was the essential breakout work.
Didion’s prose is grounded. It doesn’t stray at any point in time. From speaking of Joan Baez (which is a very affectionate portrait of a highly intelligent woman) to a think piece on the Santa Barbara Coast to Las Vegas and the culture of quickie marriages, there is always this sense of voyeurism and at the same time, this need to soak in more of what she writes. This collection, in fact, reminded of her other collection of essays, The White Album and After Henry, whose content is very similar to “Slouching Towards Bethlehem”.
It takes a while to kick into the book, but it is also a good beach read (Surprised? So was I when I started it on a quick getaway). Her musings about life, in general, are also worth reading, even if you might not agree with some. “Slouching Towards Bethlehem” is one of the best essay collection you will ever read. So, please do not miss out on it.