Slouching Towards Bethlehem

Slouching Towards Bethlehem

eBook - 2000
Average Rating:
Rate this:
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.

Publisher: New York :, Modern Library,, 2000
ISBN: 9781504045650
Characteristics: 1 online resource
text file,rda
Additional Contributors: OverDrive, Inc

Related Resources


From the critics

Community Activity


Add a Comment
Jun 27, 2019

I took my time with this. Somewhere during college it was recommended and added to a (long and growing) list of titles, but I am so glad it finally made its way into my hands. How have I not read anything by Didion before? Was she waiting for this precise moment, when I am precisely this age before she showed up?

I don't know. But I do know this was beautiful and thought provoking. And above all, it was like finding my own reflection unexpectedly in "John Wayne: A Love Story" and "Goodbye to All This". Read it, or don't, or read it later - if it comes your way it was meant to.

Dec 05, 2018

On reading the 1st part (LIFE STYLES IN THE
GOLDEN LAND), her journalistic style (rare in contemporary reporting, perhaps?), appears to be indifferent, made me unease first, gradually drawn to its unique appeal, more than effective and objective.
On 2nd part (personal stories) and 3rd (places), I prefer the latter’s collection more easily.

Jul 26, 2018

Finally read this classic for my own enjoyment, and let me tell you, it was enjoyable and worth the wait. Something beautiful happens when you read a book written in a different time and that narrator brings you there, living at that moment, with those people who react through that timeframe, bringing history alive so brilliantly that you can almost smell the perfume, the dust, and the marijuana. (Okay, I live across from Golden Gate park. I smell that every day, even now.)

Every story is a beautiful adventure through someone else's strange, mistake-laden situation and story they've created to justify their actions. Actions such as killing your husband, giving your young child drugs, you know - the early sixties. Not sure I wanted to really live in this moment in time, but it was eye-opening and brought so much perspective to the era, to what people thought and how they reacted and why they did what they did. After half a century, it's easy to understand the present as a reaction to this expanse of post-war "freedom."

Nothing is more interesting than a Joan Didion perspective on what could have been a regular newspaper story. There is glamour, drama, oddness, peculiarity, creativity, uniqueness, and something you just can't name about what she brings to narration. It's breathtaking to be riding through the story, regardless of the subject and situation.

Still kind of freaked out about young 1960's mothers and the horrible things they made their little children live through, though. Overreaction to strict parenting is overreaction, as well.

Dec 26, 2017

Slouching Towards Bethlehem collects a series of Joan Didion's short essays from the 1960s, covering subjects from Alcatraz to Howard Hughes to the CPUSA, but mostly herself and triple-faced California - LA, San Francisco, and Sacramento.

The title essay relates the author's experiences exploring Haight-Ashbury during the Summer of Love, which exemplifies her overarching (but not overpowering) theme of the emptiness at the heart of '60s America, an emptiness so profound that even those who feel it - like those San Francisco hippies - lack the words to describe it or the means to escape it. Yet the most remarkable piece may be "On Morality", in which she diagnoses American post-War social fragmentation, not as the result of a lack of morality, but the surfeit of it - innumerable competing individual moralities each demanding validation.

Apr 03, 2016

A literary gem. On Keeping a Notebook; On Self-Respect and On Morality, insightful and personal, great essays.


Add a Quote
DBRL_ReginaF Jul 25, 2018

The center was not holding. It was a country of bankruptcy notices and public-auction announcements and commonplace reports of casual killings and misplaced children and abandoned homes and vandals who misplaced even the four-letter words they scrawled. It was a country in which families routinely disappeared, trailing bad checks and repossession papers. Adolescents drifted from city to torn city, sloughing off both the past and the future as snakes shed their skins, children who were never taught and would never now learn the games that had held the society together. People were missing. Children were missing. Parents were missing. Those left behind filed desultory missing- persons reports, then moved on themselves.

Age Suitability

Add Age Suitability

There are no age suitabilities for this title yet.


Add a Summary

There are no summaries for this title yet.


Add Notices

There are no notices for this title yet.

Explore Further


Subject Headings


Find it at SCL

To Top