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Slouching Toward Bethlehem Summary & Study Guide

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❶I kept on thinking about this and so I was intrigued to read that "This book is called Slouching Towards Bethlehem because for several years now certain lines from the Yeats poem which appears two pages back have reverberated in my inner ear as if they were surgically implanted there". You can sense it in the gloomy countenance of the teens, burned out on psychedelics, for whom any notion of a future has been so annihilated that the mere concept of a thirty year old is barely comprehensible.

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Slouching Toward Bethlehem Summary & Study Guide Description
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It feels like a time capsule about a place that doesn't exist the same way anymore, at least not completely. Even the Santa Ana winds may have changed.

Sep 02, Quinn Slobodian rated it liked it. I realize what is disturbing about these essays and what leaves the acrid aftertaste on the leftist tongue about Didion.

And I don't think it has much to do with her relatively measured take on the drug-addled Haight-Ashbury scene. For better, but admittedly and sadly often for worse, the radical leftist imagination has been characterized by a willingness and a desire to leap out of our skin into the skin of others, to experience a jump of radical empathy in which the concerns of "they" become t I realize what is disturbing about these essays and what leaves the acrid aftertaste on the leftist tongue about Didion.

For better, but admittedly and sadly often for worse, the radical leftist imagination has been characterized by a willingness and a desire to leap out of our skin into the skin of others, to experience a jump of radical empathy in which the concerns of "they" become the concerns of "we," to see through many eyes the way Virginia Woolf allows us to do.

Which is why, especially if we are white, we vilify our roots because we often see in our own family histories, a palimpsest of larger histories of injustice and oppression.

We have a melancholic view of history, in which moments of utopian potential are consistently being snuffed out in the name of "order" and "tradition," the very values, in other words, which Didion spent much of her time in the s eulogizing. She is writing funeral speeches for the passing of milieus whose only apparent meaningfulness is that they are connected to her own biography.

Why we should lament the disappearance of the pathetic stagings and affectations of a dusty fake aristocracy is not clear to me, why we should take the survivalist grit of the pioneer generation as ethical models for the present even less so. The Indians are amongst us, protect your own, defend your lifestyle against all costs. These are the imperatives of the Right, old and new, Goldwater and Bush.

Circle the wagons against the strange and the new. I admire Didion for the razorblade incisiveness of her critique but her unwillingness to open her subjectivity up to the world makes it difficult to think of her as an ally. View all 6 comments. Dec 25, Hadrian rated it liked it Shelves: In reading the essays in Slouching Towards Bethlehem , I feel a vague sense of unease.

Within each essay, there is some revelation of anxiety or untruth. Within every person, there is a moment of quiet desperation. Within a the placid calm of a country marriage, there is a murder. Within each city, there lie feelings of lost hope and disillusionment.

Within each person, there is some quiet desperation. In reading these essays, some rough beast has come 'round at last.

Didion's style is taut, but In reading the essays in Slouching Towards Bethlehem , I feel a vague sense of unease. Didion's style is taut, but repetitive, and can persuade by force of rhetoric alone. Yet for all of her stylistic skill, I cannot but feel there is some broader deficiency in her outlook. She makes the idealism and short-sighted hedonism of the hippies look ridiculous, but they are such an easy target. The whole collection speaks internally of nostalgia and of something lost, but I'm not sure if this dreamworld ever existed.

View all 5 comments. Joan Didion is an insightful and skeptical thinker, an astute ironist, and a beautiful prose stylist: Slouching Towards Bethlehem exemplifies her craft. While all of her essays are exemplary in form, some fall by the wayside of memory, and even only a week removed from my first foray in Didion, only a few remain with me with any moving power. Slouching Towards Bethlehem skirts the two worlds of my known intimacy and my unknown distance: I had held off reading Didion for a while, because more than I knew about her writing, I knew about her celebrity.

The Joan Didion of She has become her own horror, a self-damaging neuralgia grown completely inward into herself. Much of this collection is a reflection on external, cultural phenomena: Her essays have a literary flair, which court Fitzgerald-esque lyricism and Hemingway-an precision, exactness: As a twenty-three year old recently initiated, adieu, twenty-two I understand the conviction that what one feels, one is the first to feel, perhaps the only one ever to feel: If young childhood is the realm of dominant solipsism, young adult hood is the era of narcissism, egoism.

It is necessary, I think, to go through this deeply narcissistic phase: At twenty-something, the consequences of our actions are minor, we are yet-formed, yet-completed, we are free to fall and free to rise, but still free to be forgiven. In this period of our lives we must design and build a genuine ego, to replace the mask of entitlement and privilege of youth.

Everything which is new is new only by our point of reference: Literature, history, makes us feel often that we are not alone, that what we are feeling is rooted in something which is universal, eternal: What draws people to literature, to story-telling, to TV and movies, is our desperate need for linearity in life. We understand the beginning-middle-end mentality, the rhythm of narratives is very comforting to us.

We are a profoundly moralizing species, and narratives help us find meaning, even if it is artificial, created, posed: Didion acknowledges this compulsion: I know something about dread myself, and appreciate the elaborate systems with which some people fill the void, appreciate all the opiates of the people, whether they are as accessible as alcohol and heroin and promiscuity or as hard to come by as faith in God or History. As humans, we need some escape, or if not escape overtly, some structure which guards us from the brutal chaos of reality.

We conceive of ourselves heroes, we are heroically justified, our self-respect buds, we become a solitary wanderer, discoverer, thinker, inventor: To have that sense of one's intrinsic worth which constitutes self-respect is potentially to have everything: Self-respect, according to Didion, is a "moral nerve" - those with self-respect "have the courage of their mistakes.

They know the price of things. There is not currency so valuable as self-respect, and no wealth which is harder to regain when it has been lost. I was moved, was empathetic, to what Didion has to say about her life, particularly her more personal essays.

Her descent into neurotic inwardness is perhaps the extreme condition of her reflexive mastery in her earlier essays and works: She is coolly self-aware at the age of thirty-two, where she has become a prisoner of her own privilege and self-communion in her later years.

I think we are well-advised to keep on nodding terms with the people we used to be, whether we find them attractive company or not. Otherwise they turn up unannounced and surprise us, come hammering on the mind's door at 4 a. 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.

View all 3 comments. I don't mean to be super fangirl about this collection, because a lot of the essays were fine but didn't blow my socks off.

However, the ones that I really liked? I really fucking liked. And I know that a couple of months from now, probably even a few years from now, even with my shitty-shit memory, I will look back at this collection and think happy thoughts because of the essays that made my little Grinch heart explode into brightly flavored fireworks of flowers and sunshine and unicorns.

I don I don't mean to be super fangirl about this collection, because a lot of the essays were fine but didn't blow my socks off. I don't mean to be dismissive about the essays that I thought were merely fine, but that's probably how it will come across.

Let's just lay out here: I don't care that much about California. I know people who live there, one of my brothers used to live there, that's all great, they're good people. But when I think about places I have an active interest in visiting, California isn't high on that list. Even when a lovely person like Joan Didion writes about California, it doesn't make me want to hop on a plane and head there. So those essays didn't do so much for me, much like her other collection, Where I Was From , didn't do so much for me.

I blame all of this not on Didion or her writing, but the entire state of California. That's right, California, I'm throwing shade your way. There's that one, Slouching Towards Bethlehem , for which this collection is named, that was really powerful. Didion spent time with the hippies of the original Sixties in Haight-Ashbury, and okay. That was a really decent essay. But that was more about Haight-Ashbury and counter-culture than it was about California.

But the other ones that were amazing and did funny things to my heart were the ones that were even more personal, personal to Didion and to who Didion is as a person. Most of the entire second section, Personals , made me nod out of familiarity. I knew exactly what she was talking about. And in the final section, Seven Places of the Mind such a great section title , the final essay, Goodbye to All That hit me in all the feels. I want to curl up with this book and re-read all my favorites over and over again.

But right now I can't even. So five glowing stars for the ones I liked the most and I'll just pretend the other ones that felt lackluster in comparison were from that other essay collection of hers that I gave two stars. View all 8 comments. I loved the sheer beauty and rigor and power of the sentences. I'd never read anything by her before but I'd heard great things. I picked this up for 50 cents on a lark and found it to be ideal subway reading.

It might be that Didion seems to be uniquely fascinated with urban landscapes and t I loved the sheer beauty and rigor and power of the sentences. It might be that Didion seems to be uniquely fascinated with urban landscapes and the ephemera of modern people, or that she wrote many of these pieces for magazines and thus erred always on the side of accessibility and flow, or just that she's a damn fine writer.

I haven't had the depth of experience with NYC that she obviously does but I flatter myself to think that I could really relate to what she was writing.

I could see myself in the prose as in a particularly well done movie; the silent second lead, as it were. Pretty much every time she was either reminiscing or leaving some place or reminiscing about leaving some place her prose really started to hit these amazing, subtle, breathy and breathtaking cadences. The in-person profile of John Wayne was also interesting and somehow economically true-to-life. She writes that when she was young she saw a movie where Wayne states that he'll take the girl he fancies to the place where the water-lilies grow- she has always dreamed, albeit ruefully, that someone would take her there someday.

It's a sweet, subtle, sneakily personal moment which caught my breath when I read it. I love this kind of writing- magazine profiles are always a special treat- and I guess Didion deserves much of the credit for pioneering it alongside the more borborygmous practitioners of the New Journalism, your Mailers, Thompsons and so on.

She makes it severe, language-wise, rationing out her lyricism to distill it for maximum impact. The reader learns pretty quickly not to mess with their author's judgments. And this is my gripe, with this book at least the only non-fiction of hers I've read: Californians of all stripes come out for the freak show on Didion's home turf: Everybody here seems a caricature. It might be me, but I couldn't shake the feeling that these characters and scenarios are interesting to her because they are so fucked-up, drained, and wasted.

The cumulative effect is one of aggregated enervation leading to slight but distinct exasperation. I mean, pointing out the hollowness of the 60's counterculture is all well and good, but what with the portentious, doomy title and the near-callous, scornfully raised eyebrow of disapproval I start to take Didion's judgments with ever-increasing grains of salt.

You can either shake your fist in the street or you can get some kicks out of laughing your ass off, and wouldn't it be more interesting, all Modern Urban Malaise considered, to crack a joke once in a while?

Plenty of artists and writers satirized the same social and moral landscape with seemingly similar values in mind one might think of West, Wilder, Pynchon and Zappa, just to name a few, not to mention HST, a near-peer whose zest for the absurd only partially redeems the fact that he can't write a paragraph, or even a sentence, on Didion's level but they did in their own ways with a bit more bravura, wit, and sympathetic understanding.

Didion doesn't need to like these people- I mean, really, who could? Didion can write masterfully- I wonder if she can laugh half so well. There's an interesting article I read awhile back in The Atlantic magazine that delves into Didion's role as a literary and cultural presence from a totally different and interesting perspective which might be worth reading, if you're reading this: For the record, I don't think Didion is being narcissitic or maudlin, I really got the sense that her social anxieties were real rather than the hipster confections we see every friggin day on the tv or eavesdropping confabs over vegan coffee beans under paintings of sad koalas and that most importantly they made her a better writer.

Mirror to nature, fly on the wall. Man, do I ever feel that, btw. Reading her took me back to undergrad or last week when I spent many interminable evenings sociologically trying to interest myself in the company I kept, bored out of my sockets, silently sitting cross-legged and watching everything everybody did, ostensibly storing it up for future reference but coming away feeling bored, despondent, and a little lost.

Where have all the good times gone? As she herself remarks, in one of her many brilliantly wise, mordant aphorisms, "writers are always selling somebody out. I had more friends than I cared to who thought he was the second coming of Christ and that his books qualified as real bona-fide literature.

Some do, surely, but the reach exceeds the grasp for decades at a time. HST yearned with all his little heart to write like Fitzgerald and suffered the unlucky fate of being more or less the kind of writer who people who don't really cherish literature for its own sake assume to be great writing.

Didion seems the stronger writer by far in terms of and precisely because of her openly acknowledged subversive, steel-spined modesty. Her shit detector seems solid, shock-proof and substantial, as grizzled papa's was so rarely. My major beef is that, in STB at least, it's constantly blinking red.

Aug 15, Diane rated it it was amazing Shelves: Joan Didion, where have you been all my life? My husband has been trying to get me to read her books for years, and I see now how blindly stupid I've been in not reading her sooner.

Most of the essays in "Slouching Towards Bethlethem" are wondrous; there were only a few that didn't amaze me. The piece on the Haight-Ashbury district, for example, dragged on way too long and wasn't as interesting as it would have been when it first appeared in Similarly, the piece on Hollywood was so e Joan Didion, where have you been all my life? Similarly, the piece on Hollywood was so enmeshed in the present that it doesn't seem relevant some 40 years later.

But the rest of the book awed me. My favorite essays were "John Wayne: The story of celebrating her daughter's first birthday was bittersweet, knowing that in real life, Didion's only daughter died young from septic shock. And yet, I treasured that moment of Joan gazing at her baby in her crib, hoping for the best for her. I can't finish this review unless I mention the author's preface, which I confess I've read and reread several times to fully appreciate it. One night I read a paragraph of it to my husband, who said, "That's my favorite paragraph of hers.

I avoid situations in which I have to talk to anyone's press agent I do not like to make telephone calls, and would not like to count the mornings I have sat on some Best Western motel bed somewhere and tried to force myself to put through a call to the assistant district attorney. My only advantage as a reporter is that I am so physically small, so tempermentally unobtrusive, and so neurotically inarticulate that people tend to forget that my presence runs counter to their best interests.

And it always does. That is one last thing to remember: May 23, Lynne King rated it it was amazing Shelves: This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers.

To view it, click here. How can one possibly not love Joan Didion be it for her fiction or non-fiction. These twenty essays demonstrate her skills not only as a journalist but also as an incredible author. I must confess the essay on Howard Hughes scintillated me. As for the title which I found very unusual. I was intrigued to see that W. There, she might be able to understand it and to come to terms with it.

The first edition cover of Slouching Towards Bethlehem left , and the updated cover right. Want more authors like Joan Didion? Sign up for the Early Bird Books newsletter and get the best daily ebook deals delivered straight to your inbox. These were primarily runaways and drug-users often both , who had fled overbearing parents or simply wanted to "stick it to the Man" by marching to the beat of their own drum. In one passage, she recounts meeting Susan, a tripping 5-year-old girl whose mother frequently dosed her with LSD.

In another, she talks about a neglected young boy who nearly sets his house on fire. Browse all BookRags Study Guides. Get Slouching Toward Bethlehem from Amazon. View the Study Pack. View the Lesson Plans. Part 1, Life Styles in the Golden Land: Some Dreamers of the Golden Dream.

Where the Kissing Never Stops. On Keeping a Notebook. Part 3, Seven Places of the Mind: Notes from a Native Daughter. Letter from Paradise, 21' 19' N. The Seacoast of Despair. Goodbye to All That.

This section contains words approx. View a FREE sample. More summaries and resources for teaching or studying Slouching Toward Bethlehem. Slouching Toward Bethlehem from BookRags.

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Slouching Towards Bethlehem: Essays (FSG Classics) [Joan Didion] on *FREE* shipping on qualifying offers. The first nonfiction work by one of the most distinctive prose stylists of our era, Joan Didion's Slouching Towards Bethlehem remains/5().

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In reading the essays in Slouching Towards Bethlehem, I feel a vague sense of unease. Within each essay, there is some revelation of anxiety or untruth. Within each essay, there is some revelation of anxiety or untruth/5.

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Slouching Towards Bethlehem is a collection of essays by Joan Didion that mainly describes her experiences in California during the s. It takes its title from the poem " . Slouching Towards Bethlehem is a book of thematically connected essays, most of which were originally published in magazines between and Didion took her title from a poem by William.

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Altogether, Slouching Towards Bethlehem, the collection, turned the author into the Joan Didion we know and love today. Click here to read an excerpt of the titular essay from Slouching Towards Bethlehem, then download the book. During spring of , just before the Summer of Love, thousands of Americans flocked to San Francisco, the epicenter of the hippie movement that challenged everything that was understood about the world. Psychoactive drugs, creative expression, revolutionary music and political ideals swept the nation. Long-haired flower children spoke of free love, peace and the necessity [ ].