Joan Didion is someone who I’ve been interested in reading for quite a while but only recently rose to the top of my to read list, most likely because she is occasionally mentioned on Brain Pickings, one of my favorite blogs. I chose Slouching Towards Bethlehem as my first Didion because it includes “On Keeping a Notebook,” which is often referenced in writing circles.
Slouching Towards Bethlehem is an incredible collection of some of Didion’s essays from the late 1960s. It perfectly blends Didion’s personal experiences within a greater cultural context, as when, in the title essay, she explores the Haight-Ashbury district of San Francisco and interviews young people in the counterculture movement.
These essays appealed to me for a few reasons. One is that I was born in the late 1960s and have a great interest in that period. Didion’s personal spin on those times brings them to life.
Another reason is that I lived in Las Vegas for four years and one of her essays, “Marrying Absurd,” focuses on Vegas weddings. But more than that, having lived in the southwest, I also spent a great deal of time in California and despite Nevada being my home state for that time, I always felt more of a kinship to its neighbor to the west. The bulk of Slouching Towards Bethlehem is about California and much of it resonated with me. Didion also writes about her time in New York and her reactions to living on the east coast. As someone who has spent time on both coasts, I found her perceptions fascinating.
Although I have personal reasons for loving this collection, I would imagine that anyone who likes reading personal essays from intriguing people would like Slouching Towards Bethlehem.