4 Non Blondes - Bigger, Better, Faster, More! by 4 Non Blondes

By 4 Non Blondes

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Her earliest essays are collected into categories that form a type of cohesive, critical narrative surrounding self and society in 1960s America. Page numbers cited from Slouching Towards Bethlehem are taken from the 1990 paperback edition (New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux). This collection defines her essay style: ironic, elegiac, often sad but unsentimental, and capable of amazing clarity even as it claims not to comprehend its subject. As a journalist she focuses on the smallest details, then pans out, showing her reader how her subject relates to the surrounding world.

She has set up her essay as a paean to a kind of manhood that does not exist, that has been almost entirely fabricated yet is utterly evocative and persistent. It is a certain kind of secure, unambiguous manliness that enables all of the other stereotypes of personhood to be true. In other words, she sees John Wayne as the embodiment of the Western myth through which all facets of the myth flow. Didion goes on location to interview Wayne and the other actors during the shooting of ‘‘The Sons of Katie Elder’’ in Mexico.

She is a self-described waif, and she explains in the book’s preface that she is so small and seemingly fragile the people she interviews forget how dangerous it is to be candid with her in her role as a journalist, and she is never afraid to exploit this fact. Didion takes the title of this collection from the William Butler Yeats poem ‘‘The Second Coming,’’ which is reprinted in its entirety at the front of the book. Yeats’s poem has proved to be of the utmost significance to modern literature.

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