Merry Wanderer of the Night + TIME

Slouching Towards Bethlehem

I've had a long time love affair with Joan Didion. She is the master of the personal in the essay. She knows exactly when to divulge her own history and when to hold back and let others come trough. Slouching Towards Bethlehem is a collection of essays about 1960's America and Didion captures the mood perfectly. She isn't afraid to question or learn and that is what makes her such a fantastic essayist and journalist. In the preface Didion says she went to San Francisco because the world she understood was disappearing. And, as an essayist, she attempts to understand the world she has come to.

I think a lot of people feel this way now. The world a lot of us have been a part of is disappearing, and that includes me. Not only is technology moving faster and broader than any of us probably expected, but we are losing the vastness of American-- we are constantly building over it. Didion looks at San Francisco with the same wonder and confusion we look at our world today, and in doing so realizes that things fall apart. The collection is split into two parts, Life Styles in the Golden Land and Personals. Life Styles in the Golden Land contains essays that explore others lives in San Francisco while Personals is more of Didion's ruminations on things like journaling and home. I vastly preferred Personals to Life Styles in the Golden Land, but this was perhaps because they were easier to connect to on the surface.

Out of everything I read in this book, I loved her essay On Keeping a Notebook the most. In this essay she explores the reality of a notebook, and considers how temporary it actually is. In a journal we write what we are thinking at one moment, and years later we can return to those some words and not have a clue what we were actually thinking about. She talks about how she cannot actually keep a diary because it is too boring, but how she still has a need to write things down. And then she says "I imagine, in other words, that the notebook is about other people. But of course it is not. I have no real business with what one stranger said to another at the hat-check counter in Pavillon..." (135). I loved this because when I journal I often do write about other people, but it isn't actually about them, it's all just a reflection of me.

Because of the disconnect I felt between the two sections I'm giving this a B, but I know I will return to it someday.

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Slouching Towards Bethlehem + TIME