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Slouching Towards Bethlehem

Slouching Towards Bethlehem

Joan Didion


I read this book on the recommendation of Brain Pickings, where Joan Didion is a frequent feature. It doesn't disappoint.

"Slouching towards Bethelehem" is a collection of essays on diverse topics: an unsolved murder, meetings with John Wayne and Joan Baez, the 1960's at Haight-Ashbury in San Francisco, the troubles and joys of living in New York. The writing is quite exquisite at times, such as this in the discussion of keeping a notebook:

I sometimes delude myself about why I keep a notebook, imagine that some thrifty virtue derives from preserving everything observed. See enough and write it down, I tell myself, and then some morning when the world seems drained of wonder, some day when I am only going through the motions of what I supposed to do, which is write – on that bankrupt morning I will simply open my notebook and there it will all be, a forgotten account with accumulated interest, paid passage back to the world out there.

(I feel the same way about my research notebooks: surely, eventually, I'll get some benefit from them?) As a whole, the book is pitched as a meditation on the atomisation of society and life, but I think it can be read in a more positive light, as an exploration of diversity and the survival of the past into the present. Well worth taking time over.

4/5. Finished 22 September 2014.

(Originally published on Goodreads.)

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