The “dazzling” and essential portrayal of 1960s America from the author of South and West and The Year of Magical Thinking (The New York Times).
Capturing the tumultuous landscape of the United States, and in particular California, during a pivotal era of social change, the first work of nonfiction from one of American literature’s most distinctive prose stylists is a modern classic.
In twenty razor-sharp essays that redefined the art of journalism, National Book Award–winning author Joan Didion reports on a society gripped by a deep generational divide, from the “misplaced children” dropping acid in San Francisco’s Haight-Ashbury district to Hollywood legend John Wayne filming his first picture after a bout with cancer. She paints indelible portraits of reclusive billionaire Howard Hughes and folk singer Joan Baez, “a personality before she was entirely a person,” and takes readers on eye-opening journeys to Death Valley, Hawaii, and Las Vegas, “the most extreme and allegorical of American settlements.”
First published in 1968, Slouching Towards Bethlehem has been heralded by the New York Times Book Review as “a rare display of some of the best prose written today in this country” and named to Time magazine’s list of the one hundred best and most influential nonfiction books. It is the definitive account of a terrifying and transformative decade in American history whose discordant reverberations continue to sound a half-century later.
“In her portraits of people, [Didion] is not out to expose but to understand, and she shows us actors and millionaires, doomed brides and naïve acid-trippers, left-wing ideologues and snobs of the Hawaiian aristocracy in a way that makes them neither villainous nor glamorous, but alive and botched and often mournfully beautiful.” —Dan Wakefield, The New York Times Book Review
“Superb . . . brilliant.” —Los Angeles Times
“Didion’s essays of a world featuring barricades and bombings, mass murders and kidnapped heiresses make recent history as filtered through her seem a savage and passionate drama, something you can put a hand on and feel it beating, something you can put your ear to and hear its story.” —The Village Voice
“Arriving one year after the Summer of Love, the book, and its title essay, firmly punctured the pervasive myths about the counterculture. . . . One of the most compelling books about ’60s America.” —Time
“Startling . . . She can strike at the heart, or the absurdity of a matter in our contemporary wasteland with quick, graceful strokes.” —William Hogan, San Francisco Chronicle
“The story between the lines of Slouching Towards Bethlehem is surely not so much ‘California’ as it is [Didion’s] ability to make us share her passionate sense of it.” —Alfred Kazin
Praise for Joan Didion
“She is one of the very few writers of our time who approaches her terrible subject with absolute seriousness, with fear and humility and awe. . . . She 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.” —Joyce Carol Oates, The New York Times Book Review
“A slant vision that is arresting and unique . . . Didion might be an observer from another planet—one so edgy and alert that she ends up knowing more about our own world than we know ourselves.” —Anne Tyler
“Many of us have tried, and failed, to master [Didion’s] gift for the single ordinary deflating word, the word that spins an otherwise flat sentence through five degrees of irony. But her sentences could only be hers.” —Chicago Tribune
Joan Didion is the author of five novels, ten works of nonfiction, and a play. Her books include Slouching Towards Bethlehem, Play It as It Lays, The White Album, The Year of Magical Thinking, and, most recently, South and West: From a Notebook. Born in Sacramento, California, she lives in New York City.