Sunday, May 03, 2020

BOOK REPORT: "Slouching Towards Bethlehem"

Slouching Towards BethlehemSlouching Towards Bethlehem by Joan Didion
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Joan Didion may be self-obsessed, insular and oblivious to the plight of those outside her upper-crust elitist circles, but she also is a damned impressive writer with a remarkable recall for detail and an ability to capture the zeitgeist of a given time and moment that she lived through.

A collection of some of her finest pre-1968 personal essays, "Slouching Towards Bethlehem" provides a painterly insight about what it was like to live, love and lose in settings such as Las Vegas, New York, Hawaii and Sacramento during a decade of rampant cultural upheaval.

Didion's ability to capture and crystalize a place and time are priceless, and many of her essays are passionate dives into the mindset of Americana in its various iterations of the period.

Her ability to unleash entrancing descriptions is uncanny, and her hypnotic pace is nothing short of dazzling. Still, it's easy to resent her, shaking your head at her oblivious navel-gazing and ludicrous degree of self-importance.

Diane Keaton is the ideal choice to narrate the Audible version, not so much reciting the words as breathing them -- no doubt because she either experienced many of the same things at the same times that Didion did, or because she was so heavily influenced by her words when they were published.

"Slouching Towards Bethlehem" is a priceless artifact of its time that continues to maintain relevance today. I found myself completing a master class, looking up references and reading about historical events I had hardly heard of before. Her wit and irony have proven to be timeless.

Publisher provided review copy.

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