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The first collection of nonfiction writing by Joan Didion describing her experiences in California during the 1960s.
Its title is taken from the poem 'The Second Coming' by W. B. Yeats written in 1920 in the aftermath of WWI, and fittingly released as a song by Joni Mitchell in 1991.
The melancholy and foreboding of the first lines of the poem: 'Turning and turning in the widening gyre the falcon cannot hear the falconer; Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold; Mere anarchy is loosed upon the word,' resonates throughout the book. In particular, when Didion captures some of the more disturbing aspects of the foundling hippy era in 'Slouching Towards Bethlehem' where she writes about 'children who were never taught and would never learn the games that held the society together,' and a five year old child stoned on acid.
The first part of book focuses on unsettling events and disparate characters in California during this time including a sensational murder case; a splinter group of communists; a pacifist movement led by singer Joan Baez and her disciples in Carmel Valley; a marriage ceremony in Las Vegas for a bride too young to be served champagne; and a group called 'The Diggers' who were endeavouring to feed local dropouts. Didion points a lens on the social fragmentation caused by the Vietnam War, the Cold War, civil rights, human rights, and youth culture.
The second part of the book includes a series of personal reflections including pieces on self respect, mortality and 'Keeping a Notebook' which I found most interesting: 'It is a good idea, then, to keep in touch, and I suppose that keeping in touch is what notebooks are all about. And we are all on our own when it comes to keeping those lines open to ourselves: your notebook will never help me, nor mine you.'
Although technically brilliant, sharply observed, and objective in its portrayal of people's lives and events, and brutally honest in describing her own experiences, I found this book exceptionally well written but overall quite depressing, hence only four stars given, not five.
I bought this to read about JDs trip to San Francisco and Haight Ashbury. The first essay in the book. Her way of writing is quite dry and witty and details the experience eloquently. It's quite interesting that some hippie parents thought nothing of giving their 4 yo peyote!
Quizás es un pelín caro para el número de páginas que tiene, pero entiendo perfectamente que la calidad lo merece. Ensayo espectacular de Joan Didion, ideal para, como yo, filólogos ingleses o periodistas.
I bought the hardcover edition thinking it would be a nice collectible version of one of my favourite books. Y'all...this book is so small I can barely open it. Think pocket sized bible. I can't believe I wasted $29 on this lol.