Annie's Reviews > Slouching Towards Bethlehem

Slouching Towards Bethlehem by Joan Didion
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Mar 24, 09

bookshelves: classics, nonfiction
Read in March, 2009

My writing teacher assigned the essay "On Keeping a Notebook" to us, and instead of just reading that I read the entire collection cover to cover. Joan Didion is a writer's writer, someone whose very word choice conjures envy. The way she weaves so many different narratives, moments, and voices into one coherent work - a work that appears to be mere pastiche, but is actually much deeper - shows so many lessons to be learned.

True, some of the essays are a bit dated, but I still think the relevance carries. The namesake essay "Slouching Towards Bethlehem" about San Francisco during the summer of love is everything and nothing you'd expect it to be. "I Can't Get That Monster Out of My Mind" is a critical commentary on how Hollywood had become pejorative during the 1960s, basically stating that there was nothing new at all being made in modern film at the time. While some of this criticism is a bit overly-harsh, Didion does point out some essential issues with the film industry that are still only too common today.

I personally loved her "Notes from a Native Daughter", all about Sacramento and how it is so unlike San Francisco, and any other town in California. The entire collection is essentially a group of works on California; the sense of place, landscape, absurdity, character, beauty, and ugliness are all particular to this state. I suppose I hadn't realized that Didion was so much a "California" writer before, which makes her hold a special place in my heart. But, even without this, as a writing model she has no comparison.
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