Upon its publication in 1968, Slouching Towards Bethlehem confirmed Joan Didion as one of the most prominent writers on the literary scene. Her unblinking vision and deadpan tone have influenced subsequent generations of reporters and essayists, changing our expectations of style, voice, and the artistic possibilities of nonfiction.
"In her portraits of people," The New York Times Book Review wrote, "Didion is not out to expose but to understand, and she shows us actors and millionaires, doomed brides and naïve acid-trippers, left-wing ideologues and snobs of the Hawaiian aristocracy in a way that makes them neither villainous nor glamorous, but alive and botched and often mournfully beautiful. . . . A rare display of some of the best prose written today in this country."
In essay after essay, Didion captures the dislocation of the 1960s, the disorientation of a country shredding itself apart with social change. Her essays not only describe the subject at hand--the murderous housewife, the little girl trailing the rock group, the millionaire bunkered in his mansion--but also offer a broader vision of America, one that is both terrifying and tender, ominous and uniquely her own.
Joyce Carol Oates has written, "Joan Didion is one of the very few writers of our time who approaches her terrible subject with absolute seriousness, with fear and humility and awe. Her powerful irony is often sorrowful rather than clever. . . . She has been an articulate witness to the most stubborn and intractable truths of our time, a memorable voice, partly eulogistic, partly despairing; always in control."
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"It was not a country in open revolution. It was not a country under enemy siege. It was the United States of America in the cold late spring of 1967, and the market was steady and the GNP high and a great many articulate people seemed to have a sense of high social purpose and it might have been a spring of brave hopes and national promise, but it was not…"
"So physically small, so temperamentally unobtrusive, and so neurotically inarticulate" that people tended to forget that her presence ran counter to their best interests, Joan Didion slipped herself into the heart of the Sixties Revolution, only to slip out again with this savage masterpiece, which, since first publication in 1968, has been acknowledged as an unparalleled report on the state of America during those curious days. Now that some of the posturing and pronouncements of those times are being recycled, Didion's sobering reflections are timely once again: 'the future always looks good in the golden land, because no one remembers the past."Review:
"Didion's essays of a world featuring barricades and bombings, mass murders and kidnapped heiresses make recent history as filtered through her seem a savage and passionate drama, something you can put a hand on and feel it beating, something you can put your ear to and hear its story."
"Brilliant, troubling, indelible tales and reflections."
SAN DIEGO TRIBUNE
"Reveals a wholly original analytic mind, a sensibility as expansive and idiosyncratic as a 19th-century novelist's."
"Our quintessential essayist."
JERRY KOSINSKI, 'LA Times'
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Book Description Penguin Books Ltd, 1974. Paperback. Book Condition: New. Bookseller Inventory # P110140037438