Slouching Towards Bethlehem -- Joan Didion
This collection of essays marks the crowning of Didion as the master of the American essay. I particularly liked the essay on John Wayne; it brought a plethora of black and white Western memories and the excitement of old time war movies. These essays--although dated--depict an era of history in the United States that could be interpreted in a million different ways. Didion's essays make it sound like the conventional wisdom about the 1960s generally holds: that everyone was out there living it up and being a hippie. But, I wonder, how did Nixon get elected in '68? He said it best when accepting the Republican nomination for president he referred to the "silent majority." I really think that was the case in the 1960s. Sure the hippies and the social activists were more visible, always on television, etc. But the truth was the the "silent majority" still ran the country.... the 9 to 5 worker, the housewives, the young men who volunteered for service in Vietnam (only a small percentage of those drafted actually served any combat time in Vietnam--the majority were volunteers).
Didion gets it all right. I think she does because essentially it did happen that way, whether to a certain degree or another that's beside the point. She is illustrative and precise in her depiction of the Haight-Ashbury scene in San Francisco. I love her reference to the Yeats poem, particularly the lines "the center cannot hold" and "The falcon cannot hear the falconer."
So, I am half way through this book which I began yesterday, including the fact that I am taking notes and also the fact that I am taking my friends from Holland for drives around the city. So I promise to do better this week. By the way, today is the FIRST YEAR ANNIVERSARY of this blog, and also my wedding anniversary! What a day!