I’d previously read and loved The White Album, so when I saw Slouching Toward Bethlehem come up in a kindle sale I was very quick to click.
A collection of essays from the the 1960’s, as with any book of essays this was something of a mixed bag for me, and having been born 10 years after its publication (as well as being English) I must admit that unfamiliarity with some of the people, places and things being written about meant I didn’t quite get from them what I expect others would.
My favourite piece in the book was its titular piece, with Didion spending time in Haight-Ashbury at the height of the hippy movement. Without feeling too judgmental, Didion does a good job of letting you meet some of the characters and ideas that were in play at the time, while also letting you see and feel some of the ugly undercurrents that were already starting to make themselves felt. When I was a teenager, that scene seemed like heaven to me, but my 40 year old self who’s done more than my fair share of living looks at it entirely differently now and Didion captured well why that might be.
The pieces I liked least were those that were most introspective, probably helped because I’ve spent too much time in my own head recently. I also come from a world that is as different as can be from Didion’s – I grew up in a council house in a country that always rains, to young parents who were barely scraping by, so I struggled to relate to the very different kind of lifestyle she’s led and the types of problems it threw up.
I must also admit that on writing this review two weeks after reading the book, aside from the title piece and a few brief flashes from elsewhere, the rest of the contents have turned out not to be very memorable as they’ve slipped from my mind entirely.