Slouching Towards Bethlehem: Essays (FSG Classics) (Paperback)
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After being blown away by two essays in Jia Tolentino’s Trick Mirror, I revisited this 1960s/’70s portrait of America. In perfect balance, Didion is both inconspicuous and whip-smart in her exploration of place, making her a prime witness to the ways in which a shifting landscape changes its characters and vice versa.— Betsy
Celebrated, iconic, and indispensable, Joan Didion’s first work of nonfiction, Slouching Towards Bethlehem, is considered a watershed moment in American writing. First published in 1968, the collection was critically praised as one of the “best prose written in this country.”
More than perhaps any other book, this collection by one of the most distinctive prose stylists of our era captures the unique time and place of Joan Didion’s focus, exploring subjects such as John Wayne and Howard Hughes, growing up in California and the nature of good and evil in a Death Valley motel room, and, especially, the essence of San Francisco’s Haight-Ashbury, the heart of the counterculture. As Joyce Carol Oates remarked: “[Didion] 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.”
Joan Didion (1934-2021) was the National Book Award-winning author of many works of fiction and nonfiction. After earning a Bachelor’s degree in English at the University of California, Berkeley, she started her literary career writing articles and essays for Vogue, Mademoiselle, Life, The Saturday Evening Post, and National Review, establishing herself as a prominent member of the New Journalism movement. Her books include The White Album, Play It As It Lays, and Slouching Towards Bethlehem.
Shortlisted for the Pulitzer Prize, Didion’s revelatory memoir The Year of Magical Thinking was adapted as a one-woman stage show starring Vanessa Redgrave on Broadway. She also wrote several screenplays with her husband John Gregory Dunne, including Panic in Needle Park with Al Pacino, the second remake of A Star is Born with Barbra Streisand and Kris Kristofferson, and an adaptation of her own Play It As It Lays with Tuesday Weld and Anthony Perkins.