Slouching Towards Bethlehem is a collection of Didion’s essays, previously published in magazines, on a variety of topics with a special interest in California in the 60’s. The first section, “Lifestyles in the Golden Land”, includes pieces on a murder in San Bernardino, Joan Baez, John Wayne’s last movies, and San Francisco during the summer of love; the next section contains essays on more abstract topics (diary writing, morality, self-esteem); and the third and final section has delves into a broader geography and personal experiences (Hawaii, Didion’s 20s spent in New York).
The California-focused pieces were my favourites. Although California currently sells itself as many things- tinseltown dreams, family-friendly dream vacations, tech-wizard mecca- all of these sales pitches are about new, hopeful, surface-level gloss. In contrast, Didion’s writing is a melancholic and wistful look at the grimmer and often problematic below-deck workings. I also really enjoyed Didion’s writing style regardless of the subject matter- she excels at describing things in a way that is evocative and descriptive but not ornate- a fine balance.