Reading through Slouching Towards Bethlehem was like taking a journey through beloved sections of my home state. At times searingly insightful and at others nostalgic, this novel was breathtaking. I want to begin reading it again to find insights and nuance that I missed the first time.
The novel is composed of many articles, some short some long, that Didion wrote for various magazines during the 1960s. While the topics are varied, they all revolve around one centralized point; the chipping away of the glass encasing we put around beloved objects and periods to reveal the heart of the matter, the emotional core. Didion’s writing evokes many emotions in the reader and, in turn, exposes her emotions about the topics she writes. She does not shy away from complex and intense emotion but embraces it. She looks deeply into the movements of her time to show not only a changing America but a changing populace. Those insights into the chancing populace are still pretty darn relevant too. She looks at the Summer of Love in Haight Ashbury in the 1960s from various angles, which for me was incredibly fascinating and a little disturbing. She definitely looked at the less popular viewpoint of the Summer of Love.
My favorite article, however, was one she wrote about her hometown of Sacramento and of the Central Valley. Being from the Central Valley myself, it was incredible to see her describe a Valley I was never able to experience. I am of the generation from the changed Valley. The Valley that has grown into something it can’t quite handle. Not just focused on agriculture anymore but not sure where else to go.
Didion writes with so much pathos and honesty it’s hard not to fall under her spell. You travel right along with her as she hops from the sunny California coast to the busy streets of New York. She cracks the shell of a city and a movement and gets at what’s underneath it all. What propels it forward or has stopped it in it’s tracks. She exposes the truth in a way that’s hard to deny even if it might be hard to accept. It’s easy to see why some have called her the master of prose. She writes with command, poise, and honesty making her instantly relatable. I think that her honesty is what allows her to see into the hearts of various people and look at them in a way that shows who they really are and not just what they are trying to present themselves as.
Stay tuned for the next book in Book Battle 2015. A hint, it’s inspired by a popular TV show.
Happy Reading all!
Next up in Book Battle 2015 is a book set in California. There are so many to choose from it was hard at first to narrow down the options. But eventually I settled on Joan Didion’s Slouching Towards Bethlehem. The novel is a compilation of her essays from the 1960s that describe some of the movements going on at the time as well as relevant news stories and issues. I have to say I’m pretty darn excited to start reading this book. Didion is supposed to be the voice of her generation, and I’m all for that. I love reading about the tumultuous 1960s, the decade that forever changed the landscape of the US.
I’ve never read anything by Joan Didion before and can’t wait to start with the book that many think is her best. Perusing the book a bit, the articles are spread out into three different parts seemingly based on subject matter. Now I did peek and read the prologue and so far I love the way she writes with so much command and style. And she threw a shout out to Yeats which has my inner literary nerd jumping up and down in excitement.
Happy Reading fellow Book Battlers!
Told in the perspective of the last unicorn left on earth, Beagle introduces us to characters that are all looking for something, whether they know it or not. The unicorn is looking for her kin, the magician is looking for real magic and a way to change his fate, and Molly Grue is looking for some magic herself. Battling many obstacles on the journey, Molly, Schmendrick the magician, and the unicorn, who is later turned into the Lady Amalthea by Schmendrick, have to face their biggest obstacle in the form of the Red Bull. To me, the Red Bull was more than just a representative of fear but of ones own desires and how they can hinder and trap us where we are. It’s not enough to just desire something to make it real. Desire and happiness involve sacrifice and pain. Now I won’t go all literary on you guys but this book was an English major’s dream. There is so much in it that is up to interpretation. So much to think about and debate over. On the surface The Last Unicorn appears to be a simple fairy tale but it develops into a conversation about life, hope, and redemption.
If you read the last post you know I had high hopes for this book before I even opened the cover and let me say it definitely lived up to those expectations. The Last Unicorn is a wonderful and hilarious pastiche of 1960s culture, Grimm’s fairy tales, with a splash of Monty Python for flavor. Beagle transports you right into this world of magic, unicorns, princes, and princesses but diverts the genre by giving animals and humans alike real voices from his own time. The butterfly in the first few scenes is hilarious and reminds me of your typical 1960s flower child. It’s almost like watching an episode of The Mod Squad as told by a butterfly to a unicorn.
I would definitely recommend this book to anyone who loves a good story and a little humor. It is so much more than a fantasy story about a unicorn.
Final rating: 5/5
Stay tuned of the next installment in Book Battle 2015.