Last Updated on June 19, 2019, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 305
Slouching Towards Bethlehem is a collection of essays written by American journalist and essayist Joan Didion. The book was published in 1968. The majority of the essays center on Didion's experiences living in California during the 1960s.
Since Didion wrote about a turbulent decade of America's history, the essays are not only personal in nature, but also contain many quotes on the author's insights about the then-current political and social culture. For instance, Didion observes that “we were seeing the desperate attempt of a handful of pathetically unequipped children to create a community in a social vacuum.” This is regarding the counterculture she saw in California and other parts of the country.
Didion also talks about her own personal struggles during that time, stating, "Marriage is the classic betrayal." This quote also shows the parallels in her personal life and the "marriage" between the American people and the government, and how the the latter "betrayed" the former.
Joan Didion battled with depression—possibly bipolar disorder—throughout her life, and the author has had tumultuous relationships, even with her own daughter. She was also around well-known figures in the literary world and in Hollywood who were either murdered, died of drug overdose, or committed suicide, as exemplified in this quote: "It is the season of suicide and divorce and prickly dread, wherever the wind blows."
The collection of essays is, in essence, Didion telling her own story, as well as the story of those she knew during her life at the time. It is also the story of California, of the United States, and of the larger cultural forces going on in the country. The book is perfectly described with this quote: "The stories are endless, infinitely familiar, traded by the faithful like baseball cards, fondled until they fray around the edges and blur into the apocryphal."