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.
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 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.
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.
what can I say. I was as surprised as anyone. There's an underlying childish drawl and she mispronounces words (turns out Joan Didion uses "desultory" quite a bit).
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 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.
Diane Keaton's intonation is exhausting at best. Her pauses are poorly placed and she doesn't seem to respect sentence structure. The book and Joan Didion are perfect and timeless.
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.
Liked best? Well, Joan Didion's writing, of course! Liked least? What a weird clash of writing style and narrator style. My brain recoiled at the strangely off delivery, with dozens of obvious mistakes and hundreds more subtle "mis-aimed" attempts to add expression and dynamism. I love Diane Keaton's acting legacy, and her personal charisma, which shines through her film performances. But as a reader, at least of this kind of material, I could not listen past the first two stories. It's too late to return this book, but it would have been my first return ever at Audible.
Almost certainly not. I don't mean to impugn her ability to understand the material, but she read as if Joan Didion's sentence structure was just too much for her. Perhaps Diane began many sentences expecting a certain syntax, and when Joan's sophisticated style took the reader on a delightful little twist, Diane just got lost and delivered the rest of the sentence as best she could. Every couple of paragraphs a nagging feeling resurfaced -- that Diane hadn't seen this material before, much read it less out loud.
Some people just can't read out loud in such a way as to convey the subtler aspects of the author's intent. In other words, some can read the words in a clear, intelligible manner (Diane certainly can), but they don't see what a writer would see, and they don't express what this author is *doing* -- what makes great writing work. Here Diane's delivery was just too inappropriate, unbalanced, oddly off in emphasis and timing. Though a delicate kind of failure, it made Joan's work almost impossible to enjoy, and I couldn't stop thinking of what had been missed in the reading. In fairness to Joan Didion, I stopped listening after an hour or so, and bought the book. Needless to say, the book is memorably successful.
Sad to say: definitely not.
It pains me to pan this performance so completely, but it also pains me that I spent $15 on this product, so I felt a responsibility to future purchasers. I am also disappointed that Audible's producers didn't pick up on the profound disconnect between reader and writer. I would expect Audible to work with readers, especially famous ones whose names help sell a recording, to ensure a much higher quality reading.
Sometimes I choose a lucky dip book. This was one of those. It is really strong in parts. It has a genuine feel of a range of 60s cultures. It is not weak anywhere just less interesting.
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