SLOUCHING TOWARDS BETHLEHEM
Ms. Hen bought this book because she heard Joan Didion is a great writer and she felt like she needed to read more essays. Ms. Hen has never been to California, and reading this made her want to go because most of the essays are about California in one shape or another.
The title essay is about San Francisco in 1967 and the blossoming hippie culture. Ms. Didion went to San Francisco to talk to people to see what was happening so she could write about the movement. She told the people that she met she was a journalist and watched young people going about their lives.
The hippies did drugs. A lot of them. All the time. Ms. Didion was thirty-two when she observed their lifestyle so she had the ability to step back and consider what they were doing. Being on drugs impaired their judgment about everything. She didn’t think the hippies had a beautiful life and there was even much of a movement happening, she thought they were all confused.
At the end of “Slouching Toward Bethlehem,” Ms. Didion wrote about how see saw a five year old on an acid trip. For a year, the girl’s mother had given her acid and peyote. The writer did not judge the situation, but you could see how appalled she became. There is something entirely wrong about giving a child acid, and everyone knows this.
In this essay, Ms. Didion shows the growing pains of a country that needed to break free of its repressed youth. This generation were the baby boomers, the ones who came forth after World War II, and needed to break free of the Eisenhower/McCarthy age. These kids wanted to become awakened and high as a steeple, and that’s what they became. They didn’t know or care about what would happen in the future, or if there would even be a future.
In “Notes from a Native Daughter,” Ms. Didion writes about Sacramento, her hometown. She writes about the past and the present at the time in which she wrote the essay. She writes about the newcomers, people who worked at the Aerojet-General and their families, who would never know the old stories of the place, about the Donner-Reed party and cannibalism, or about the rich man who lives in a trailer on the land where his mansion burnt down. There are many places like this in the United States, with colorful pasts that get lost when gentrification occurs, or the old-timers move away or die.
Ms. Didion did not die in New York, but she got very depressed because the city became too much for her as she explains in the essay, “Goodbye to All That.” She describes how she lived in New York when she was young, and new possibilities appeared around every corner, but as the years went by, she kept hearing the same stories from different people. Ms. Hen might be the one to tell the same stories again, but she tries to tell them to different people so nobody will get bored. It’s true that a place can get to you, get under your skin and ruin your perspective. Ms. Hen is never bored anywhere because she is a purse.
Ms. Hen liked this book even though she’s never been to California and a lot of the aspects of some of the essays are quite dated. She likes reading about how the world used to be and she’s glad the world isn’t that way anymore. There are some things about the way things used to be that Ms. Hen misses, such as freedom from cell phones. A peek into the past and one woman’s view of the world is what this book offers and Ms. Hen was ready to receive that gift.