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Publisher's Summary

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.

Critic Reviews

"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)

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What members say

Average Customer Ratings

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    5 out of 5 stars
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Fabulous time capsule

So long ago but it sounds so fresh and modern! A time of radical change. Diane Keaton reads BEAUTIFULLY.

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    2 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars

Shouldn't have ignored the bad reviews!

I love this book but Diane Keaton butchered it with her shocking pronunciation and stumbling slow delivery.

0 of 1 people found this review helpful

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  • The Companion
  • 28-09-2015

Diane Keaton doesn't read this book very well

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).

17 of 18 people found this review helpful

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    3 out of 5 stars
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  • Amazon Customer
  • 24-11-2016

Wanted to love it; couldn't listen.

What did you like best about Slouching Towards Bethlehem? What did you like least?

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.

Would you be willing to try another one of Diane Keaton’s performances?

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.

Was Slouching Towards Bethlehem worth the listening time?

Sad to say: definitely not.

Any additional comments?

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.

16 of 17 people found this review helpful

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  • Victoria Wright
  • 21-01-2013

Didion deserves better.

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.

75 of 83 people found this review helpful

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  • Lemondropkid
  • 03-06-2016

Dammit Diane!

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.

15 of 16 people found this review helpful

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    3 out of 5 stars
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  • Sarah
  • 26-04-2013

Who'd have guessed Diane Keaton can't read?

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.

33 of 38 people found this review helpful

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    3 out of 5 stars
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  • Debbie Duncan
  • 30-01-2013

Diane Keaton takes California out of Joan Didion

Would you recommend this book to a friend? Why or why not?

Book: absolutely. Audiobook: not at ALL.

What was the most compelling aspect of this narrative?

Didion's amazing ability to describe time, place, characters.

How could the performance have been better?

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.

Any additional comments?

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.

52 of 61 people found this review helpful

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  • Jennifer Lawlor
  • 12-04-2016

Lousy performance

How could I go wrong, I thought. But the sad truth is I stopped listening because Diane Keaton's performance was so flat and uninspired.

4 of 4 people found this review helpful

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  • wsp
  • 25-01-2016

Narrator ruins it beyond repair

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.

24 of 28 people found this review helpful

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  • Michael
  • 03-12-2013

Buy the book. Avoid the audio.

What disappointed you about Slouching Towards Bethlehem?

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.

26 of 31 people found this review helpful

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  • Megan
  • 25-08-2016

Great author, bad reader

I usually love Didion's writing, but Diane Keaton's narration makes it really difficult to follow what is happening. I would recommend reading this one on your own or finding a different narrator.

3 of 3 people found this review helpful

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  • Claire Leith
  • 28-03-2018

How is this book still relevant?

Where does Slouching Towards Bethlehem rank among all the audiobooks you’ve listened to so far?

one of the better Audio Books. I love Diane Keaton's Voice and she felt like the perfect choice for this book. The Content of the book is so insightful as someone born in the 90's the story's contained really illustrate a generation of people. To me the book was written by Didion to communicate over a generational gap. Maybe originally intended to bridge the void between hippy culture and there parents it somehow is equally relevant to a person who has come a good few generations later.

What other book might you compare Slouching Towards Bethlehem to, and why?

My Misspent Youth: Essays by Meghan Daum is the 90's equivalent but this has dated less well

What does Diane Keaton bring to the story that you wouldn’t experience if you had only read the book?

Nostalgia, her voice brings you back to 90's

Was there a moment in the book that particularly moved you?

"People with self-respect exhibit a certain toughness, a kind of moral nerve; they display what was once called character, a quality which, although approved in the abstract, sometimes loses ground to the other, more instantly negotiable virtues.... character--the willingness to accept responsibility for one's own life--is the source from which self-respect springs.”
― Joan Didion, Slouching Towards Bethlehem

3 of 3 people found this review helpful

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  • J. A. Croucher
  • 31-08-2016

Evocative

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.

1 of 2 people found this review helpful