Audie Award Nominee, Short Stories/Collections, 2013
Universally acclaimed from the time it was first published in 1968, Slouching Towards Bethlehem has been admired for decades as a stylistic masterpiece. Academy Award-winning actress Diane Keaton (Annie Hall, The Family Stone) performs these classic essays, including the title piece, which will transport the listener back to a unique time and place: the Haight-Ashbury district of San Francisco during the neighborhood’s heyday as a countercultural center.
This is Joan Didion’s first work of nonfiction, offering an incisive look at the mood of 1960s America and providing an essential portrait of the Californian counterculture. She explores the influences of John Wayne and Howard Hughes, and offers ruminations on the nature of good and evil in a Death Valley motel room. Taking its title from W.B. Yeats’ poem "The Second Coming", the essays in Slouching Towards Bethlehem all reflect, in one way or another, that "the center cannot hold."
Slouching Towards Bethlehem is part of Audible’s A-List Collection, featuring the world’s most celebrated actors narrating distinguished works of literature that each star had a hand in selecting. For more great books performed by Hollywood’s finest, click here.
©1968 Joan Didion (P)2012 Audible, Inc.
"Diane Keaton does an outstanding job of conveying an era and a place. Her narration is clear, well timed, and wonderfully consistent with the author's voice. Her ability to convey Didion's musings and gentle skepticism add much. Didion's style remains extraordinary." (AudioFile)
Joan Didion's writing is fabulous, insightful, spare. She deserves much better treatment than she gets from Diane Keaton, whom I love as an actress, but who is NOT a good reader. Her mispronunciations are legion, and it is painfully obvious that she is doing this reading cold. But frankly, I blame Audible's obvious desire to whip through these recordings rather than taking the time to produce something flawless--which both the author and the reader deserve. Would it kill them to go back and dub a few mistakes? Didion deserves better.
Still worth a listen, though, because even though Keaton's not so hot, Didion is that good.
Book: absolutely. Audiobook: not at ALL.
Didion's amazing ability to describe time, place, characters.
Let me count the ways! San Bernardino (first story's setting, mentioned in the second sentence and about a dozen times after that) has never been called "San Bern-dino." Merced is not "MURSE-ed." Sausalito is not "Souse-alito." These are real towns, important to the script (if you will). Correct pronunciation should not be optional!
Diane Keaton isn't the first I've heard pronounce Washington "Warshington," but ... really? In a professional production? Was no one directing? Editing? Audible should be embarrassed.
This recording needs to be corrected if Audible continues to sell it. I have bought and listened to dozens of audiobooks; none has been this bad. As another reviewer noted, Didion deserved better. So do Audible's customers. I had to stop listening and go buy the paperback book before Diane Keaton completely ruined it for me.
I had to stop listening after about 5 minutes. I've never been to California - I've lived in Missouri my whole life. But I know that "San Bernardino" is not pronounced: "San Berdino." I suppose it's possible Keaton knows something I don't about the way the locals pronounce things in casual conversation. But at *best* this performance would be something like replacing "you" with "ya'll." It's grating. Language matters to Didion:"I am still committed to the idea that the ability to think for one’s self depends upon one’s mastery of the language, and I am not optimistic about children who will settle for saying, to indicate that their mother and father do not live together, that they come from 'a broken home.'"Her language is, in my view, butchered here. Shame on Audible for publishing the audiobook in this state. Buy the book - the prose is excellent. I'm getting my money back for the audio version.
I'm a 60 yr old former English major and grad student. It's been fascinating revisiting the books I studied in my 20s, read aloud to me.
Wonderfully wrought essays took me back to the 60's, thanks to Didion's sharp eyed portraits and ear for dialogue. However, what is Diane Keaton's excuse?? She mispronounces so many words so consistently it's as if she has a speech impediment (maybe she does). She omits any interior syllable with an "er" sound: "San Berdino;" "vetinarian." This happened so often it was distracting. I actually had to check to see if all these years I had misread San Bernardino CA and it really didn't have that interior "nar" syllable. I have recently read Didion's essays about the deaths of her husband and daughter, and reading her first collection after her latest was an interesting juxtaposition. For all the dystopia she noticed and chronicled in the 60's, she has nevertheless been able to live a good, productive and creative life. She is a treasure.
I am a fan of Joan Didion & am very pleased that so much of her work is available on Audible.
Diane Keaton does such a bad job. Her voice is slurry and laconic, through a lot of passages she sounds bored. The entire Hawaii essay is read as if by a person being forced to do it. She gets lost in sentences, she reads with no real interest. It's droney and to be honest I found my mind wandering through much of her reading.
If you would like to hear Joan Didion read by an accomplished narrator, check out the White Album, the reader there gives one of the best performances I've ever heard on Audible.
This new production brings the book to life in a fresh and relate-able way. Diane Keaton's performance is dead on (although she does get some place names wrong, which is odd for someone who has spent so much time in California.)
A collection of published and personal pieces about life in America during the 60's (it has nothing to do with the Middle East) the book still offers valid insights for a modern reader. She simultaneously provides a time capsule view into the past while reminding us that certain complaints are perennial as the seasons. I found the piece responding to complaints about how Hollywood doesn't make movies like they used to particularly funny.
Diane Keaton's reading captures the thoughtful prose and inflects a very slight condescension which I think represents the material very accurately.
I wish I had read the other reviews before purchasing. Who would guess that Diane Keaton would be such a horrible narrator? Between her wooden amateurish performance and her mispronunciation I had to quit listening, even though the stories are well written.
There were some nice moments and good writing, especially in Part II "Personals," but I found most of these essays to lack structure and emotional depth. Throughout, I was restless and bored. I suspect she's grown a lot as a writer since these early days. I look forward to reading her more recent work.
But I write for myself, for my own pleasure. And I want to be left alone to do it. - J.D. Salinger ^(;,;)^
“I know something about dread myself, and appreciate the elaborate systems with which some people fill the void, appreciate all the opiates of the people, whether they are as accessible as alcohol and heroin and promiscuity or as hard to come by as faith in God or History.”
― Joan Didion, Slouching Towards Bethlehem
I'm sure at some point Joan Didion will disappoint. I'm positive the honeymoon period will run out. I'll discover a fatal flaw, a series of articles, or a minor novel that she just 'phoned in', but not yet biatches.
Seriously, if prose could make me pregnant, I would now be Nadya Suleman.
I know this is just the normal hormonal response I get whenever I really seem to mesh or synch with an author or artist. I felt this way when I first read DFW's and McPhee's nonfiction. This is the same brain-storm that happened when I first read Delillo & Bellow's fiction. The same awe I felt when I walked into the Paris Opera and saw that giant Chagall ceiling hanging beyond that infamous, 7-ton bronze and crystal chandelier. Those same chills ran down my spine and flushed my face the first time I swallowed a Vicodin. I felt just as complete the first time I watched a Coen brothers movie. I also felt this the first time I discovered my arm naturally guided my hand to my lap. No, this isn't a revolution. It isn't even revolutionary. It a euphoria and I know it. I get it. I'm already cooling down. But I'm just going to leave the book here on my chest for awhile until my heart slows down a bit.
Hearing Diane Keaton pronounce tule fog as "tool" fog and Merced as "mers-ed" (emphasis on the first syllable rather than on the last) was a little jarring. Aren't there editors involved to help the readers pronounce the words correctly? Keaton is a good reader for Didion's slightly smug tone here, but those errors were disappointing.
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