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Maria, trente et un ans, est une actrice de seconde zone à Hollywood. Son mariage s'est soldé par un divorce, et sa petite fille de quatre ans est internée. Pour oublier, pour s'évader, elle sillonne dans sa Corvette les routes arides et sèches de la Californie. Elle pleure souvent au volant, roule des heures entières, mais cette fuite ne mène nulle part. Le désert est part Maria, trente et un ans, est une actrice de seconde zone à Hollywood. Son mariage s'est soldé par un divorce, et sa petite fille de quatre ans est internée. Pour oublier, pour s'évader, elle sillonne dans sa Corvette les routes arides et sèches de la Californie. Elle pleure souvent au volant, roule des heures entières, mais cette fuite ne mène nulle part. Le désert est partout. En quatre-vingt-quatre scènes brèves comme des séquences de cinéma, Joan Didion donne une version épurée et stylisée d'un certain cauchemar américain.


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Maria, trente et un ans, est une actrice de seconde zone à Hollywood. Son mariage s'est soldé par un divorce, et sa petite fille de quatre ans est internée. Pour oublier, pour s'évader, elle sillonne dans sa Corvette les routes arides et sèches de la Californie. Elle pleure souvent au volant, roule des heures entières, mais cette fuite ne mène nulle part. Le désert est part Maria, trente et un ans, est une actrice de seconde zone à Hollywood. Son mariage s'est soldé par un divorce, et sa petite fille de quatre ans est internée. Pour oublier, pour s'évader, elle sillonne dans sa Corvette les routes arides et sèches de la Californie. Elle pleure souvent au volant, roule des heures entières, mais cette fuite ne mène nulle part. Le désert est partout. En quatre-vingt-quatre scènes brèves comme des séquences de cinéma, Joan Didion donne une version épurée et stylisée d'un certain cauchemar américain.

30 review for Maria avec et sans rien

  1. 4 out of 5

    Darwin8u

    "I was raised to believe that what came in on the next roll would always be better than what when out on the last. I no longer believe that." - Joan Didion, Play It As It Lays ( Warning: This book is not to be read if suicidal, heavily medicated, driving, pregnant, or if you ever dream of walking out, alone, into the Nevada desert and not coming back. This book is pure existential peril. I remember when I was four being specifically afraid of our church's bathroom. I remember thinking the church w "I was raised to believe that what came in on the next roll would always be better than what when out on the last. I no longer believe that." - Joan Didion, Play It As It Lays ( Warning: This book is not to be read if suicidal, heavily medicated, driving, pregnant, or if you ever dream of walking out, alone, into the Nevada desert and not coming back. This book is pure existential peril. I remember when I was four being specifically afraid of our church's bathroom. I remember thinking the church was hallowed ground. Protected by some benign force. Nothing could get me in the church. I was safe. But I'd sit alone, in a stall, in the bathroom, and look at the white tile, white grout, and see the dark drain on the floor. I'd imagine all the terror that existed under the Church. The snakes that were waiting to crawl through the drain. The devil waiting to pull me into the unsanctified, unhallowed, shit-filled sewers. Yeah, this book made me think of that empty feeling, that feeling that even in safe places there were gaps, snakes, sewers, and darkness. This book also reminds me a bit of a combination of The Great Gatsby (but told by Daisy in California in the 1960s) and Less Than Zero (but told by Blair and Julian's parents). Actually, hell, the book could be F. Scott and Zelda in the 1960s. Anyway, I get a weird F. Scott and Bret Easton Ellis vibe, with perhaps just a little of Cormac McCarthy's cold Western, existential dread thrown in for flavor. It is one of those novels that is near perfect and also a razor blade under your tongue. It is dangerous and sharp and makes you nervous to find out what is next. There are snakes and cracks everywhere. Plants die. Memory fades. Nothing matters. Well, O.K. Joan Didion's prose matters. It matters a hell of a lot. Joan Didion's prose just might be one reason to keep living. To keep fighting. To keep turning the damn page and rolling the damn dice.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Jeffrey Keeten

    “There was silence. Something real was happening: this was, as it were, her life. If she could keep that in mind she would be able to play it through, do the right thing, whatever that meant.” Joan Didion Whenever Maria called, it was as if the ringing of the phone heralded the end of any conviviality I might have been harboring. I always had the impression when I talked with her that the Fun to Be Around Maria was dying in another room, and all I was left with was the beautiful corpse. She wa “There was silence. Something real was happening: this was, as it were, her life. If she could keep that in mind she would be able to play it through, do the right thing, whatever that meant.” Joan Didion Whenever Maria called, it was as if the ringing of the phone heralded the end of any conviviality I might have been harboring. I always had the impression when I talked with her that the Fun to Be Around Maria was dying in another room, and all I was left with was the beautiful corpse. She was beautiful. Even though we had all seen changes to her appearance recently. So beautiful, in fact, she could still get acting jobs without too much trouble. I could see this all ending soon because she was so morose that her mood permeated the whole movie set. She had become so lost, so indifferent to everything. She was a zombie, long before Hollywood became infatuated with them. Her relationship with men was not particularly complicated. They wanted to sleep with her, and she was rather indifferent as to whether she slept with them or not. When we had first met, I’d “seduced” her while blinded by her glamour and allurement. It was only after we were entangled that I realized that all of that was only skin deep. “By the end of the week she was thinking constantly about where her body stopped and the air began about the exact point in space and time that was the difference between Maria and other.” She had leaned on one elbow and shared that revelation with me. Her hair was still rummaged from my fingers. Her lipstick was smeared from my lips. There was something gone from her. The worms in her head had eaten into the core of her. The flame that had made her a star was nothing, but ashes. I left her with vestiges of misery clinging to me as if I’d been tainted by her own unhappiness. But we remained friends. I worried about her and worried about myself whenever I knew I had to see her. Things weren’t going well with her husband, Carter, or with her other lovers for that matter. They all were finding it harder to find the woman that first made them want her. Her mantra of late was: “I know what "nothing" means, and keep on playing.” Her circle of friends continued to take her calls because we were all afraid that by not answering we might be putting her life in danger. Someone so miserable had to be suicidal. It was like a guillotine hanging over all of us, waiting for her to decide when and how. It was frustrating to see someone who had been given so much not being able to find any way to enjoy the life that many desired. I’d been drinking one night after losing yet another part that would have insured many years of future success when she called. Her unhappiness fueled the fire of my own dejection. I heard myself scream into the phone, “For all our sakes just get it over with.” I’d slammed the phone down and poured myself a couple of fingers more of scotch. I couldn’t afford to know Maria anymore. It was too debilitating, too disheartening, and inspired too many ugly thoughts of resentment. I wanted her melancholy to be left to song. Remorse wrapped crumpled newsprint around all my further thoughts. If you wish to see more of my most recent book and movie reviews, visit http://www.jeffreykeeten.com I also have a Facebook blogger page at: https://www.facebook.com/JeffreyKeeten

  3. 5 out of 5

    Jenn(ifer)

    All right, let's discuss... It has been a month since I read this little ditty, and in that one month's time, it has managed to lose a star. Because honestly, I can't give a book 5 stars just because I couldn't put it down, just because it was a "quick read." If that was the standard, every Jodi Picoult book I've ever read would be given 5 stars. When it comes down to it, while I did thoroughly enjoy this book, it isn't one that's going to stay with me through the ages. It isn't one I'm going to All right, let's discuss... It has been a month since I read this little ditty, and in that one month's time, it has managed to lose a star. Because honestly, I can't give a book 5 stars just because I couldn't put it down, just because it was a "quick read." If that was the standard, every Jodi Picoult book I've ever read would be given 5 stars. When it comes down to it, while I did thoroughly enjoy this book, it isn't one that's going to stay with me through the ages. It isn't one I'm going to recommend to you or you or you. Although I'm sure you'd enjoy it. Or not. One of my GR friends told me that this book is a favorite of The National front man/songwriter Matt Berninger (I haven't been able to find corroboration of this on the interwebs, but I'll take your word for it). Loving The National like I do, I figured I'd give it a shot. I guess in retrospect this book feels a little self-indulgent to me. It's a story of a poor sad little actress with nothing but a lot of money and a lot of time on her hands. Ever met a beautiful girl with dead eyes and an expressionless face who doesn't care about anything or anyone? Well that's Maria Wyeth for you. Her world is a bleak one that you really shouldn't visit for very long, because she's the kind of girl who will suck the life right out of you. Unless you're a nihilist. Then you should pull up a chair and stay awhile; you'll feel right at home. **** This has absolutely nothing to do with the book, but you should listen to it anyway: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4FIw7E... **** March 20, 2017 - I was right. I remember nothing about this book. I should take away another star!

  4. 5 out of 5

    Julie Christine

    Joan Didion once said that writing is a hostile act. An imposition of the writer's sensibility on the reader's most private space. Play It As It Lays, published in 1970, slaps down at your soul's kitchen table and announces itself, not loudly, but in a voice that crawls under your skin, not really caring whether or not you want to see anyone, and lights a cigarette. In between noxious exhales, it tells you some version of the truth. Maria Wyeth's story, told in shifting first and close third pers Joan Didion once said that writing is a hostile act. An imposition of the writer's sensibility on the reader's most private space. Play It As It Lays, published in 1970, slaps down at your soul's kitchen table and announces itself, not loudly, but in a voice that crawls under your skin, not really caring whether or not you want to see anyone, and lights a cigarette. In between noxious exhales, it tells you some version of the truth. Maria Wyeth's story, told in shifting first and close third person, is a 20th century existential tragedy, a sort of American The Stranger, in which Maria is Meursault and Los Angeles, Algiers; a psychiatric hospital stands in for a prison; there is a Nevada desert instead of a North African beach. At thirty-one, Maria is an actress of fading relevance with an impending divorce and a beloved four-year-old daughter in a care facility for the developmentally disabled (oh, my heart stuttered at the term 'retarded' used throughout the book). No one at the institution combs Kate's hair and the sad tangles Maria tries to smooth out during her visits are somehow emblematic of the chaos in her own life. The chaos isn't a busy one. It isn't an overflow of demands. It is the chaos of nothingness. “By the end of the week she was thinking constantly about where her body stopped and the air began, about the exact point in space and time that was the difference between Maria and other.” Maria has become paralyzed by life, by the emptiness of her career and her relationships, where friends exchange each other as lovers as often as they exchange yesterday's soiled underwear for today's clean pair. She has had her insides scraped clean of a child conceived not in love, but in desperate boredom, and that act—the back alley abortion so terribly, graphically evoked here, remember, this is the late 1960s—is the ultimate creation of empty chaos. Maria finds solace traveling the freeways that criss-cross this City of Angels. Cruising the nothingness of the tarmac is the only time she feels safe and in control. Yes, this is a wrenching read. But so brilliant. The multiple points-of-view are deftly handled, the lightest touch bringing in this character or that. Didion's writing, with its echoes of Hemingway and McCullers, is spare and unflinching. The chapters are short and white space is left on the page, reflecting the white space in Maria's life that she tries to fill with alcohol, sex, acting, driving. Few novels have taken me so deeply inside one character, injecting me into her bloodstream, so that I breathe with her, see through her eyes. I love Maria, I hate her, I want to protect her, I want her out of my life. Time has done nothing to diminish the power of Maria's story, yet Play It As It Lays is a fascinating time capsule of feminist literature. Highly recommended.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Steven Godin

    Don't quite know how she did it, but it's rare I come across a novel that I found so alienating and distant, yet so warm at the same time. Didion's Play it as it lays which takes place across Los Angeles, the Mojave Desert and Las Vegas is full of excess truths that dart across it's pages more like a prophecy. And it seemed to me to do that thing that feels impossible: it connects to readers who are not of the ilk of the characters. Didion opens proceedings in not the greatest of places one woul Don't quite know how she did it, but it's rare I come across a novel that I found so alienating and distant, yet so warm at the same time. Didion's Play it as it lays which takes place across Los Angeles, the Mojave Desert and Las Vegas is full of excess truths that dart across it's pages more like a prophecy. And it seemed to me to do that thing that feels impossible: it connects to readers who are not of the ilk of the characters. Didion opens proceedings in not the greatest of places one would want to be - a mental institution, with a not unfamiliar piece of wisdom that sometimes the people on the inside are sometimes wiser than the people on the outside. Maria, an ex-model & Actress, a sort of anti‐heroine, is the main point of interest throughout the novel, actually, going one step further - she is the novel. Even though she is an expert on feeling and being nothing, and coming from nowhere (well, of course she comes from somewhere, that would be Silver Wells, Nevada). With a non-linear narrative, we observe parts of Maria’s life in flashback, seeing certain things in real time leads her to grab hold of the happy moments from another time and place. She is a burnt‐out case and that's putting it mildly. Maria goes through the motions of continual emptiness, she tries to keep her career alive after starring in two films directed by her estranged husband, Carter Lang , but she is rarely clear headed. Maria goes to parties and is easy prey for anyone who wants to bed her, and even has a casual affair with a friend's husband. The bulk of the story basically follows Maria on a sad downward spiral that eventually leads to........? not too sure.....a kind of wisdom I suppose. But then this is never really a novel with any concrete conclusions, lots of things are left hanging in the balance, and I think it's all the better for it. Didion shows us how someone deals with their own disintegration, although Maria is constantly in denial that things are falling apart, she races around the freeways driving at high speed to at least keep her reflexes and attention in tact, but living on a cocktail of drugs just to get through the day shows a woman continually battling the demons within. Through the fog, there is actually a high intelligence in her observations and connections. She uses the language with the ease, control, and virtuosity, that comes from a natural grace. When Maria speaks of her little daughter with an unspecified mental imbalance, what might have been sentimental garbage, is so powerfully moving and so true. Reading of a young woman wanting to destroy herself was never going to be comfortable, and it isn't. Didion's searing take on Hollywood is as unforgiving as the showbiz world itself. Bleak, sometimes harrowing, poignant, but always engrossing, I found this to be one of the most realistic pieces of fiction from a woman's point of view I have read for ages, with the use of dialogue that even had me thinking along the lines of Raymond Carver. Others have said it's a bad novel by a good writer, like it was written out of a lazy insufficient impulse by someone who doesn't know how to handle all that talent and skill. I have to disagree. This didn't just evaporate from my consciousness, and any novel that strongly stays with you whilst getting on with the day, is in my eyes the signs of a decent piece of storytelling, which this simply was to me. The fact I hadn't read an American novel for God knows how long also helped, it was like re-discovering life across the pond all over again.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Joe Valdez

    Anyone still wondering why Dave Chappelle would walk out on a $50 million TV deal with Comedy Central to go into semi-retirement hasn't read Play It As It Lays by Joan Didion. All the answers are here. There is such a thing as a novel missing me at whatever point I'm at in my life. But there's also the kismet of a novel careening into me at the moment I'm crossing the same intersection the author is driving through. A month ago, I was reading an oral history of the '80s movie Masters of the Unive Anyone still wondering why Dave Chappelle would walk out on a $50 million TV deal with Comedy Central to go into semi-retirement hasn't read Play It As It Lays by Joan Didion. All the answers are here. There is such a thing as a novel missing me at whatever point I'm at in my life. But there's also the kismet of a novel careening into me at the moment I'm crossing the same intersection the author is driving through. A month ago, I was reading an oral history of the '80s movie Masters of the Universe and in addition to insight on Dolph Lundgren or how a toy company destroys a successful product line, this comment from Chelsea Field, who played Teela in the movie, about co-star Courtney Cox stuck in my memory. "Luck always plays a big role in everything. Being in the right place at the right time. Getting the right script for the right show. I’ll tell you something funny. This must have been a little bit after Masters. And Courtney--she and I stayed in touch--she lived in Hollywood and I lived over in Burbank. So sometimes if I had an interview over in Hollywood or Beverly Hills, I’d stop by her place and we’d read lines together. I’d go by her house and have a cup of tea before I hit my audition. And if it was a scene where I had to muster up tears or something she’d just be looking at me like, “Oh my god, how do you do that? How do you do that, Chelsea?' And I’d look at her and I’d be like, 'you go to class. You’re welcome to come to mine. Would you like to go with me?' And literally this was her answer: 'Oh no, I just have to get lucky once.' And I’d be like, 'what? No, come to class.' And she’d be like 'No, really, I just need to get lucky once.' That was her philosophy." Bully for Courtney Cox and Friends, but if life is a lucky bet, what happens to those who realize they don't have the energy to keep playing the game? Joan Didion's 1970 novella Play It As It Lays doesn't try to expose the dark side of life in the fast lane with salacious melodrama or thinly veiled celebrities acting out soap opera; she let Jacqueline Susann do that. Didion implodes that live fast/die young lifestyle into a numbing entropy. The novel is centered on and sometimes narrated by a woman telling her story from a place where mental health professionals present her with inkblots and her visitors have to sign in. My name is Maria Wyeth. That is pronounced Mar-eye-ah, to get it straight at the outset. Some people here call me "Mrs. Lang," but I never did. Age: thirty-one. Married. Divorced. One daughter, age four. (I talk about Kate to no one here. In the place where Kate is they put electrodes on her head and needles in her spine and try to figure out what went wrong.) Maria was born and raised in Nevada, the only child of a gambling father with great expectations and big dreams in zinc mines, cattle ranches, ski resorts or motels he bought or won but that never paid off big. Maria grew up in a town her father owned called Silver Wells (pop: 28) with her mother and her father's business partner. Graduating from high school in Tonopah with her mother's looks and her father's spirit, Maria moves to New York for acting lessons. In the beginning, Maria's gamble pays off in ways her parents could only have dreamed of. A successful modeling career segues into the lead role in a movie called Angel Beach, in which Maria played a girl raped by a motorcycle gang. The movie is a big hit. Next comes marriage to her director, an up-and-coming talent named Carter Lang, and a multitude of glamorous acquaintances, most of them toxic, including her husband's producer BZ and BZ's wife, Helene. With a disabled daughter she cannot care for and an estranged husband away on location, Maria spends much of her time driving the freeways of Los Angeles in her Corvette. When she feels like talking, she's contradicted. She tells her agent she wants to work, he tells her she doesn't. She tells her husband she wants to give marriage another try, he tells her she doesn't act like it. Opportunities come and go. Life begins to pass Maria by while she stands watching it like a film extra. Play It As It Lays is the first book I've read where nearly every sentence could be the first sentence of the book. -- So they suggested that I set down the facts, and the facts are these. -- What happened was this: I looked all right (I'm not telling you I was blessed or cursed, I'm telling a fact, I know it from all the pictures) and somebody photographed me and before long I was getting $100 an hour from the agencies and $50 from the magazines which in those days was not bad and I knew a lot of Southerners and faggots and rich boys and that was how I spent my days and nights. -- In the first hot month of the fall after the summer she left Carter (the summer Carter left her, the summer Carter stopped living in the house in Beverly Hills), Maria drove the freeway. -- "Tell me who you've seen," she said. -- At four that afternoon, after a day spent looking at the telephone and lighting cigarettes and putting the cigarettes out and getting glasses of water and looking at the telephone again, Maria dialed the number. One of the pleasures in any novel is discovering an author who has possession of a skeleton key that unlocks secrets. John Steinbeck has that ability for me. So does Elmore Leonard, in more subtle and sly ways. Joan Didion, the political journalist, author, screenwriter and wife of late novelist John Gregory Dunne, taps into that reservoir of hidden currents here. Didion wasn't reporting anything new; Maria Wyeth's meltdown was preceded by many starlets of the '20s, '30s and '40s but since the publication of the novel, has recurred over and over again -- for men as well as women - on the level of a Biblical parable. Because Play It As It Lays doesn't conform to a linear progression of cause and effect -- Maria refuses to address why the things that have happened to her happened to her -- Didion is free to roam where she pleases and strike where she pleases, jumping in at different stages in Maria's life or telling episodes from different perspectives. The novel is minimal, thrilling, brutally honest, abnormally perceptive and breathlessly good. Anyone still wondering why Dave Chappelle would walk out on a $50 million TV deal with Comedy Central to go into semi-retirement, or what's going on in Hollywood, can get the short answer in this clip from Chappelle's visit to Inside the Actor's Studio in November 2008. Read Play It As It Lays for more details.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Lynne King

    So that she would not have to stop for food she kept a hard-boiled egg on the passenger seat of the Corvette. She could shell and eat a hard-boiled egg at seventy miles an hour (crack it on the steering wheel, never mind salt, salt bloats, no matter what happened she remembered her body). Which author could possibly begin a novel with the words: What makes Iago evil? Some people ask. I never ask. Well surprisingly enough Joan Didion. And these words set in motion the inevitable direction that t So that she would not have to stop for food she kept a hard-boiled egg on the passenger seat of the Corvette. She could shell and eat a hard-boiled egg at seventy miles an hour (crack it on the steering wheel, never mind salt, salt bloats, no matter what happened she remembered her body). Which author could possibly begin a novel with the words: What makes Iago evil? Some people ask. I never ask. Well surprisingly enough Joan Didion. And these words set in motion the inevitable direction that this book is going to take. When Didion wrote this book, she was thirty-five and had moved a few years before with her husband, John Gregory Dunne, to Los Angeles where they were to spend twenty years working in the film industry; The review on the back cover portrays quite succinctly the atmosphere of the setting of this book: A ruthless dissection of American life in the late 1960s, “Play It as It Lays” captures the mood of an entire generation, the emptiness and ennui of contemporary society reflected in spare prose that both blisters and haunts the reader. This was the period when the pill for contraceptive purposes had been in place for nearly a decade. This was meant to emancipate women and stop the worry of unnecessary pregnancies, however, as with many “modern” occurrences in life, problems did occur. Maria (“that is pronounced Mar-eye-ah, to get it straight at the outset” – I love this attention to detail!) Wyeth is a thirty-one year old, somewhat failed actress, married to, and then divorced from Carter, a film director. She is indeed cool at times in trying to keep her emotions in check but nevertheless she fails miserably. When the book begins, she is in some kind of psychiatric hospital and prior to this her friends had been so concerned for her safety, that when an intolerable situation occurred she inevitably turned up there. I found her entire lifestyle terrifying. Speed on the freeway was of major importance to her – she drove to places like someone demented, like a bat out of hell; it seemed that she had to keep the adrenaline flowing. Then her mood could unaccountably turn to another extreme with the realisation that life was futile and meant nothing. She cried a lot and on one occasion bled a lot. That was a mesmerising part of this book. Sex came and went and was all rather meaningless. The relationship with her husband Carter ended in divorce and I’m unsure who left whom but their situation was dire. Constant attempts at reconciliation failed as there was such hatred it was impossible to overcome. There’s a rather strange relationship between Maria, Carter and BZ (bisexual movie producer, BZ -an abbreviation for benzodiazepines, sedative drugs) and his wife Helena. I was unsure what was really going on there. Maria’s childhood was rather unusual. Her father had been a gambler, winning a town – Silver Wells - that began with twenty-eight individuals but was soon zero. As he had gambled away his Reno house, he recalled that he owned a town and so they lived there. Kate, Maria’s four year old daughter is in a clinic with an imprecise disorder. Carter was responsible for her being there and Maria is trying to get her out. She plays only for Kate. My feelings towards Maria and BZ changed dramatically from confusion and coldness to a sudden sense of place in regard to admiration for their identical views on existence on this earth. It could be seen that they had this kind of symbiotic relationship: “I never expected you to fall back on style as an argument.” “I’m not arguing.” “I know that. You think I’d be here if I didn’t know that?” She took his hand and held it? “Why are you here?” “Because you and I, we know something. Because we’ve been out there where nothing is. Because I wanted – you know why.” This novel is very symbolic with references to rattle snacks and also in the biblical sense; dreams, music and speed. The prose throughout the novel is not only riveting reading but so stark in its intensity that it disturbed me no end. Nevertheless this has certainly put me on track to read more of Didion’s works, both fiction and non-fiction. She has such a style about her, which can indeed flow from one extreme to the other but with so much depth.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Duane

    Gambling, domestic violence, sexual abuse, drugs, alcohol, promiscuity, insanity, depression, snakes, suicide. These are all elements of Play It As It Lays, and much, much more. This is stark, wide-eyed, slap in the face prose that grabs the reader and holds you from beginning to end. It's not a pleasant read, no way. Watching Maria Wyeth's life unfold is like watching the proverbial train wreck that you can't look away from. Set in the 1960's, it's about Hollywood and the movie industry; it's Gambling, domestic violence, sexual abuse, drugs, alcohol, promiscuity, insanity, depression, snakes, suicide. These are all elements of Play It As It Lays, and much, much more. This is stark, wide-eyed, slap in the face prose that grabs the reader and holds you from beginning to end. It's not a pleasant read, no way. Watching Maria Wyeth's life unfold is like watching the proverbial train wreck that you can't look away from. Set in the 1960's, it's about Hollywood and the movie industry; it's about Las Vegas and gambling; but mostly it's about the life of a not so famous actress who is lost in the darkest corners of these places, and in the darkest corners of life. Joan Didion is at her best here, the writing is superb and it's definitely worthy of being called a modern classic. 4.5 stars.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Weinz

    Recently my five y/o daughter caught the first minute of the "Thriller" video. I say the first minute because upon seeing Michael look up at the camera with yellow eyes and fangs she threw her hands up, screamed at the top of her lungs, ran from the room, into her room, ran back into the room (still screaming), out of the room, back in and buried her head into the safety of my comforting lap (still screaming). Now I realize this is most people's reaction to seeing Micheal's post '90s decomposing Recently my five y/o daughter caught the first minute of the "Thriller" video. I say the first minute because upon seeing Michael look up at the camera with yellow eyes and fangs she threw her hands up, screamed at the top of her lungs, ran from the room, into her room, ran back into the room (still screaming), out of the room, back in and buried her head into the safety of my comforting lap (still screaming). Now I realize this is most people's reaction to seeing Micheal's post '90s decomposing flesh face but for the little princess it was a little traumatizing. Since the "day o' horror" I have had to create a new "pretty" story every night "to get THAT face" out of her head. I've created my own little fantasy stories, catered to the princess, filled with violet unicorns, fairy wings, rainbows and on one interesting night a humpback whale, mermaid and her own underwater kingdom. These tales of bubble-gum and rainbows brought me to this book. Sometimes when life is filled with demonic faces that haunt your night you need the pretty stories to even it out. OR in adult-land when life is filled with beige and blah you need this book. It was achingly empty and dark. The depravity of the characters brought out feelings and emotions within me that I needed to feel. It was rich with the feelings that make you feel alive just by your own juxtaposition to the toxic characters. Reading this was akin to reading an Adrienne Rich poem. I really liked it. "I know what "nothing" means, and keep on playing."

  10. 5 out of 5

    Dan Williamson

    "Just so. I am what I am. To look for ‘reasons’ is beside the point." This is a cruel book populated by cruel characters whose hearts, for the most part, stay cold and brutish even in the desert's blistering heat. I have enjoyed Didion’s essays, so I was expecting some of the themes, but I had not prepared myself for something so delirious and fragmented. I should admit that I was not always sure I knew what was going on. It is nasty and brutish, and I loved it. The story plays out in the form of "Just so. I am what I am. To look for ‘reasons’ is beside the point." This is a cruel book populated by cruel characters whose hearts, for the most part, stay cold and brutish even in the desert's blistering heat. I have enjoyed Didion’s essays, so I was expecting some of the themes, but I had not prepared myself for something so delirious and fragmented. I should admit that I was not always sure I knew what was going on. It is nasty and brutish, and I loved it. The story plays out in the form of 84 snapshots, most of which are no more than a few pages long. A few are written in the first person, but most follow the tragic protagonist, Maria, in the third person, as she spins from trouble to trouble. The snapshots jump around in time, and we rarely get a clear sense of chronology. Maria spends a lot of time aimlessly driving around and the reader is likewise carted chaotically from location to location, from LA to Las Vegas to the Mojave Desert, from a psychiatric hospital to swanky bars and run-down motel rooms. A core set of characters slip in and out of Maria’s life and they remain slippery: it takes time to figure out who each of them are. We get glimpses of their own lives, but we only really see them as they exist in relation to the increasingly solipsistic Maria - mostly cajoling, commanding, bullying her. Didion’s prose is stunning. So much remains so well unsaid. Didion can pack so much into a single short sentence: “‘I love you,’ she whispered, but it was more a plea than a declaration and in any case he made no response.” The fragmentation of the narrative allows us to inhabit Maria’s chaos and isolation. The sparsity of details we get regarding the people in her life - mostly via snatches of dialogue - make us feel as isolated as she is. While her destructive behaviour may frustrate us at times, it is easy to feel compassion when we see what she is up against. This book was written before Roe v. Wade. That made much of what happens a big eye opener for me and I am sure that will stay with me always.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Ricky

    When I finished reading this book the other day, I suddenly realized that I hadn't really appreciated it correctly. That I needed to reread it right away because I hadn't read it the right way and because there is a lot that you don't have enough information to make sense of the first time around. I don't understand how people can call this book cold and sterile. I just thought it was so rich and textured and heartbreaking. I feel like the little chapters are like puzzle pieces and each piece is When I finished reading this book the other day, I suddenly realized that I hadn't really appreciated it correctly. That I needed to reread it right away because I hadn't read it the right way and because there is a lot that you don't have enough information to make sense of the first time around. I don't understand how people can call this book cold and sterile. I just thought it was so rich and textured and heartbreaking. I feel like the little chapters are like puzzle pieces and each piece is a sort of tone poem or a meditation or an evocation and when you place the pieces together what's between the pieces is just about devastating. *** One thing in my defense, not that it matters: I know something Carter never knew, or Helene, or maybe you. I know what "nothing" means, and keep on playing. Why, BZ would say. Why not, I say.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Jenny (Reading Envy)

    Joan Didion wastes no words. This novel is slim because she only says what must be said, and the reader must make the connections and draw the conclusions. It starts at the end with a few chapters from the points of view of other characters, then shifts into the story from Maria Wyeth's point of view. It is a picture of a depressed woman in a fake society, late 1960s Los Angeles and Las Vegas. An era with drugs and sex, movie stars in the desert and psychiatric hospitals for children, but no acc Joan Didion wastes no words. This novel is slim because she only says what must be said, and the reader must make the connections and draw the conclusions. It starts at the end with a few chapters from the points of view of other characters, then shifts into the story from Maria Wyeth's point of view. It is a picture of a depressed woman in a fake society, late 1960s Los Angeles and Las Vegas. An era with drugs and sex, movie stars in the desert and psychiatric hospitals for children, but no access to legal abortion. (That requires a sidenote - is this the first novel I've read where the main character has an abortion? I can't think of another one. Isn't that strange, considering how many women have them? And since this one was under the table it was pretty difficult to read those parts, with the trauma to her body. Her psyche was already messed up.) I had only read a few things of Didion before but I have this feeling that I will like her more and more as I age. I read The Year of Magical Thinking before I'd experienced any grief of my own. Oh how the reading experience would change just five years later. We studied the essay "The White Album" from the collection of essays The White Album when I took the creative non-fiction class and I knew I had to read more of her. She is not afraid to write what nobody else will say and she never sugar coats it.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Gabrielle

    Well, now I know where Brett Easton Ellis got the inspiration for "Less Than Zero". Except Joan Didion is a much, much better writer than him. Well, now I know where Brett Easton Ellis got the inspiration for "Less Than Zero". Except Joan Didion is a much, much better writer than him.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Jessica

    I remember when I read Where I Was From a couple years ago, Didion referred a lot to her novel Play It As It Lays and I thought it sounded really bad. About a year ago I found an old edition someplace with this enormous and brain-numbingly awesome picture of Didion with her cigarette and legendarily icy, ironical stare. I really came close to buying it just because of that image on the back, but then I had a real stern confrontation with myself in the used fiction aisle about the folly and immat I remember when I read Where I Was From a couple years ago, Didion referred a lot to her novel Play It As It Lays and I thought it sounded really bad. About a year ago I found an old edition someplace with this enormous and brain-numbingly awesome picture of Didion with her cigarette and legendarily icy, ironical stare. I really came close to buying it just because of that image on the back, but then I had a real stern confrontation with myself in the used fiction aisle about the folly and immaturity of buying a book I'd never want to read just for the author photo. Well, silly me. Yesterday I found myself the grudging owner of a deeply unappealing FSG reprint that looks like an, I don't know, J. T. Leroy book or something else totally inappropriate and awful and contemporary. No fun at all! So it's funny to be reading something I never thought I'd have any interest in, but isn't that sort of the essence of maturity? I feel like I've sort of grown into Joan Didion. She used to epitomize all these things I hated, but now I find a lot of that same stuff pretty appealing.... story of my life, right? Story of most of ours, probably. But anyway, yeah, this book. Well, I didn't have such a strong reaction to it, but like everything of Ms. Didion's I've read, I found it very well-written. I'd recommend this to anyone who liked Less Than Zero, who thinks they might enjoy essentially the same nihilistic LA-story more if it were set in the sixties, about a grown woman instead of a teenage boy, written by a better writer. I'd also recommend this to people who loved Valley of the Dolls yet who cling to certain literary pretensions. Since both these definitely describe me, it's not surprising that I did enjoy this book. I mean, it's a beautiful-woman-crashing-to-pieces yarn, and everyone loves those, don't they? No? Well, then don't waste your time. Read some of her essays instead.

  15. 4 out of 5

    K.D. Absolutely

    A beautiful book that you can finish in one sitting. However, don't read this when you are depressed because it can make you more depressed. In fact, it made me stop reading for a while because I felt so sad because I could not shake off from my mind the disheartening scenes in the book. This book that is included in the Time Magazine's 100 Best English Novels from 1923 to 2005. The book is about a 30-year old mother, Maria Wyeth who lives in the 60's America as a struggling actress. She meets a A beautiful book that you can finish in one sitting. However, don't read this when you are depressed because it can make you more depressed. In fact, it made me stop reading for a while because I felt so sad because I could not shake off from my mind the disheartening scenes in the book. This book that is included in the Time Magazine's 100 Best English Novels from 1923 to 2005. The book is about a 30-year old mother, Maria Wyeth who lives in the 60's America as a struggling actress. She meets all sorts of men - straight and bisexual - and makes love with them. Like how Capote pictured showbusiness in that era, the characters in this book seem to be living in another planet or maybe the plain-looking me is not born to be aware of how that world operates. Aside from sleeping around, they love to use drugs, drink booze, live "empty" lives, believe in nothing including themselves and see nothing in or dream nothing good about their future. So, Maria gets pregnant and even when she is already a mother, she still lives an empty life. She seems to abhor it and at several points, you can see that she struggles to set her life straight but she seems to have been engulfed by the world that she lives in. Aside from the beautiful lyrical prose of Didion, I think that inner struggle in Maria is what makes the story worth reading if not once but twice. The ennui and the meaningless of the showbiz life in America in the 60's have been more adequately captured by Capote in his memoirs and probably shown by the movie Boogie Nights. However, the state of the depression and the inner struggle of the female protagonist is simply captivating. Janice Galloway did it in The Trick Is to Keep Breathing (4 stars) was able to do in 236 pages of a standard-sized trade paperback but Joan Didion only did in 168 in a small thin paperback. If you are fascinated with Hollywood in the 1960's and you want to know how women think at the edge of a bigtime depression, go for this book. Opps, if you want to know how good a writer Didion is, that should be the bigger reason to pick this book up and read when you are not sad and if you want to be a bit sad.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Eric

    The first of her fiction that I’ve read, and it has the bleakly stylish pleasures I might have predicted from prior exposure to the essays – her feel for ominous banality, for the casual nihilism of the rootless (she insinuates where Isherwood rants, and beats him on the Zen of Freeways), for the grotesque contrast of a character’s obvious ongoing crack-up and the evasive, anesthetized trivialities she speaks in. Published in 1970 but feels radically spare and minimal – but I don’t know why I sa The first of her fiction that I’ve read, and it has the bleakly stylish pleasures I might have predicted from prior exposure to the essays – her feel for ominous banality, for the casual nihilism of the rootless (she insinuates where Isherwood rants, and beats him on the Zen of Freeways), for the grotesque contrast of a character’s obvious ongoing crack-up and the evasive, anesthetized trivialities she speaks in. Published in 1970 but feels radically spare and minimal – but I don’t know why I say that…I read hardly any contemporary fiction, so am no judge of benchmarks and besides, There is No Progress in the Arts. Interesting to compare it with Connell’s Bridge novels – his vignettes, which seemed “radically spare and minimal” to me a week ago, nonetheless offer stories, capsule meaning, however vanishingly subtle; Didion’s are a shrug and a sigh held together with a mumbled cliché – her style is a perfect vehicle for her protagonist’s sense that nothing means anything. This novel was firmly in three star territory – admire but don’t love – until the action shifted to Vegas, and from there to the desert waste with its ghost towns and missile ranges and cinder-block motels; its shifting, notional settlements of trailers and campers. The Coen brothers need to film this.

  17. 5 out of 5

    April Hayes

    You ever notice how almost every review you’ll read of a Joan Didion book calls her “intelligent,” or says that she writes “intelligent prose”? That must get to you. No wonder all of her heroines take pills. It’s true, though, she does have an awful big brain for such a little lady. And yeah, L.A. is scary, and there isn’t really anyone who conveys that better than her…except maybe Philip K. Dick, who isn’t literally writing about L.A., but come on. But, I don’t know, as good as the technique is h You ever notice how almost every review you’ll read of a Joan Didion book calls her “intelligent,” or says that she writes “intelligent prose”? That must get to you. No wonder all of her heroines take pills. It’s true, though, she does have an awful big brain for such a little lady. And yeah, L.A. is scary, and there isn’t really anyone who conveys that better than her…except maybe Philip K. Dick, who isn’t literally writing about L.A., but come on. But, I don’t know, as good as the technique is here, as cool and interesting and cutting as the writing is, I still found it a little whiny and trivial and frustrating at times. But that’s probably my fault - I have no doubt that’s because I’m not able to grasp the impact it must have had when it first came out, how shocking it must have been, how our mothers and their friends probably passed this around and the sense of deliverance they probably experienced. I’m not saying it’s a case of “how far we’ve come,” as probably the fact that we’re now able to talk about these things more upfront-ly and with less direct punishment doesn’t translate to the majority of women in this country, but maybe that’s why it’s largely unpleasant to read – the arguments she’s making are old arguments, we still don’t have any solutions, so rehashing them is just depressing and futile. Whereas "Slouching Towards Bethlehem" was like an epic, devastating requiem to California and the ‘60s, "Play it as it Lays" is more like a really good Elliot Smith song. You recognize it’s good, the first three times you listen to it you feel like it’s maybe the cleverest, saddest shit out there, but then you kind of stop listening to it; the place of pain and toxicity from which it emerged, and the fact that it’s a little too close to home is too much to have in your life and thoughts on a regular basis.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Alex

    Writing is a hostile act, says Joan Didion, not in this book, just generally, that's a thing she says. She clarifies in this terrific interview: It's hostile in that you're trying to make somebody see something the way you see it, trying to impose your idea, your picture. It's hostile to try to wrench around someone else's mind that way. So here she is wrenching around your mind in a basically hostile bummer of a book. Her lead, Maria, lives more or less permanently at rock bottom - high, promisc Writing is a hostile act, says Joan Didion, not in this book, just generally, that's a thing she says. She clarifies in this terrific interview: It's hostile in that you're trying to make somebody see something the way you see it, trying to impose your idea, your picture. It's hostile to try to wrench around someone else's mind that way. So here she is wrenching around your mind in a basically hostile bummer of a book. Her lead, Maria, lives more or less permanently at rock bottom - high, promiscuous, desperately low on self-esteem and purpose. She seems perpetually one step away from giving up, but the thing about her is that she abides. She's like an empty shell caught in the surf: helpless, battered against rocks with every swell, somehow never breaking. Her ex bullies her into (view spoiler)[getting an abortion - no one's really sure who the father might have been - and it fucks her up even further, (hide spoiler)] but she still abides. The one thing she cares about is her daughter Kate, and what even is wrong with Kate? She's hospitalized and on methylphenidate hydrochloride, that's like our only clue; that turns out to be Ritalin, which was used to treat depression in 1960. Kate's four, I think, which seems early for depression. I don't know what her damage is. Maria's an unforgettable, unique character. In the end she makes her only active decision of the book, passively: (view spoiler)[she chooses to keep her friend BZ company, instead of stopping him, as he commits suicide. She ends up, maybe mercifully, in an asylum for it. (hide spoiler)] She lives on the edge of the abyss, eyes locked into the void. "I used to ask questions," she says, "and I got the answer: nothing. The answer is 'nothing.'" This book is something, though. I loved it.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Claire Reads Books

    2.5 ⭐️ This was my first time reading Joan Didion’s fiction, and in many ways this novel exemplifies those aspects of her writing that I have always found least compelling and, at times, even grating: the extent to which Didion is Hollywood adjacent, the ultimate New York and California insider; her predilection for name-dropping and gossip and inner circles; her inescapable elitism. The writing here is as precise as ever, but the story is all style and very little substance, following one woman 2.5 ⭐️ This was my first time reading Joan Didion’s fiction, and in many ways this novel exemplifies those aspects of her writing that I have always found least compelling and, at times, even grating: the extent to which Didion is Hollywood adjacent, the ultimate New York and California insider; her predilection for name-dropping and gossip and inner circles; her inescapable elitism. The writing here is as precise as ever, but the story is all style and very little substance, following one woman’s mental breakdown to nihilistic ends. At times, Didion’s Maria Wyeth feels like a precursor to Elena Ferrante’s heroines, trying to find solid ground as the margins of her world and identity blur into catastrophe – but this novel lacks the potency and psychological complexity of Ferrante’s work. Instead, I found myself wanting to get back to Didion’s nonfiction, where her considerable gifts of observation are far better served – it seems Didion excels most when she’s working with existing material rather than relying on her own imagination. Only recommended for true Didion fans/completists.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Martha

    Lifes tough when you're a pill popping actress trying to cope with an abortion. Quick and entertaining enough to pass time on subway rides. I had trouble relating or empathizing with the characters in the book, though i had a hunch i'm not supposed to. Maybe its LA that i dont like? It had a Hurly Burly type feel to it, except its not funny. This book probably would have been more effective if i read it when i was 15, when wallowing in depression seemed glamourous. Honestly i had a hard time abs Lifes tough when you're a pill popping actress trying to cope with an abortion. Quick and entertaining enough to pass time on subway rides. I had trouble relating or empathizing with the characters in the book, though i had a hunch i'm not supposed to. Maybe its LA that i dont like? It had a Hurly Burly type feel to it, except its not funny. This book probably would have been more effective if i read it when i was 15, when wallowing in depression seemed glamourous. Honestly i had a hard time absorbing much of the story so this review is irrelavent. i'll read it again when i decide to draw a warm bath, light some candles and pray i don't get a yeast infection from spending too much time in the tub. no really i'll read it again.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Isaac Cooper

    I mean maybe I was holding all the aces, but what was the game? 2.5/5 Stars I felt incredibly dicked around while reading Play It as It Lays. I read all of it – a good sign for me – but I still felt dicked. I was getting rather restless at times, and I was also reminded of Hemingway (whom I loathe, and whom I believe Ms Didion aspires to be). I just wanted something more to happen! I wanted to feel something more for Maria (ma-ri-a?). Granted, I did feel something, but not enough. Quality review, I mean maybe I was holding all the aces, but what was the game? 2.5/5 Stars I felt incredibly dicked around while reading Play It as It Lays. I read all of it – a good sign for me – but I still felt dicked. I was getting rather restless at times, and I was also reminded of Hemingway (whom I loathe, and whom I believe Ms Didion aspires to be). I just wanted something more to happen! I wanted to feel something more for Maria (ma-ri-a?). Granted, I did feel something, but not enough. Quality review, I know. Let’s jump into specifics. Let’s also compare this to Less Than Zero, which was clearly influenced by this. Less Than Zero manages to make me feel incredibly sad for its disenfranchised, disaffected, discombobulated youth. The main character doesn’t even know anything about his younger sisters, he goes to parties and has sex with men and women and it’s all just a big nihilistic void. Awesome. There’s a void in Play It as It Lays, and some of the prose is pretty damn good, but it’s missing something. I was reminded of Hemingway for the very sparse prose and short chapter lengths, which I’m totally okay with but feel Hemingway completely botched. I think Didion does it better, but there’s still a disconnect here, a seemingly unintentional meaninglessness to the whole work. Didion attempts to shock the reader with how empty this story is but, as I know all too well, even the most empty of stories should have something going for them. I now refer to chapter 52 of Play It as It Lays: Maria made a list of things she would never do. She would never: walk through Sands or Caesar’s alone after midnight. She would never: ball at a party, do S-M unless she wanted to, borrow furs from Abe Lipsey, deal. She would never: carry a Yorkshire in Beverly Hills. That’s it, and I don’t care for it at all. Oh, shush you, it’s stylistic, it’s cool. That’s fine to be stylistic, but it shouldn’t overwhelm the story, or at the very least the characters. The above chapter is so overwhelming as to come across pretentious. Thankfully the entire book isn’t at that level of pretentious Hemingway-crap, but it does lapse into it too much. I imagine Joan Didion at her typewriter writing it out… “Hmm, I want to make this short segment edgy, real edgy. Let’s see, what would Maria never do … yeah that’s a good idea. She would never walk through Sands or Caesar’s, of course not, no, no, she’d never do that. And she would never, ever ball at a party, no, that’s for-” “DIDION!” Didion starts back from her typewriter, looking around crazily. “Who’s there?” Didion asks, frightened. “It’s me, Isaac, I’m reviewing your book, Play It as It Lays.” Didion makes a confused face. “But I haven’t even finished it yet?” “N-never mind that,” I say, “what’s that bit you’re working on have to do with the story?” Didion thinks for a moment. “I’m not sure.” “So why are you writing it?” I ask in my ethereal voice from above. “I wanted to do an edgy thing; I wanted to do a ruthless dissection of American life.” “What does that mean?” “I’m not sure.” Didion repeats. And so do I recommend it? Well, I’d recommend Less Than Zero first, and if you liked that, well, in the words of Ms Didion ... I’m not sure. There’s good and bad to the book and, in this rare case, the good and bad kind of even out and neutralize each other.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Jason Coleman

    Kind of fascinating to see that concise, tip-of-the-iceberg prose of Didion's essays applied to a piece of fiction. The heroine, who seems to share the author's withering intelligence, can't enjoy the decadence that her friends have resigned themselves to, but she isn't much good with the wholesome life either, so she carves out a mostly solitary existence made up of sleeping next to her swimming pool, compulsively hitting the highway (she puts less thought into zipping over to Vegas [distance: Kind of fascinating to see that concise, tip-of-the-iceberg prose of Didion's essays applied to a piece of fiction. The heroine, who seems to share the author's withering intelligence, can't enjoy the decadence that her friends have resigned themselves to, but she isn't much good with the wholesome life either, so she carves out a mostly solitary existence made up of sleeping next to her swimming pool, compulsively hitting the highway (she puts less thought into zipping over to Vegas [distance: 250 miles] than I do into going up a single flight of stairs), and, in the novel's best-known sequence, passing through several levels of shady security for an abortion in Encino. She gets out of the house, she even works some, but little of it seems to register with her: people come and go like spirits. The subject is dreary, and I can see how Didion's refusal to give us more than passing glances at key events and characters could frustrate some readers, but she is writing it the only way she can; you just have to trust her. Underneath the elliptically relayed events and ghostly (though spot-on) dialogue, there is a clinical layer informing the story. Didion, who went through a breakdown herself (and famously reprinted one of her diagnoses in The White Album), is depicting an unstable ego: the heroine's personality is deteriorating before our eyes. This isn't ennui, the Hotel California, or Rebel without a Cause-styled alienation; this is full-blown mental illness. Some people who get impatient with the book--or complain that they couldn't "like" the character--probably haven't caught onto this.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Vivian

    Wildly disenchanted 1960s Hollywood. This is a story about Maria, and to tell more is to ruin the swirl of consciousness. It is stark, the tarnished and penumbral side of glamour. How hard won "glamour" is. The winners, the losers, the rising and the falling; they all portray the tenuous hold each has. So close to the edge. Honestly, I don't recommend this story to anyone that isn't in a good headspace because it's brutal in a nihilistic manner. That said, it is a fantastic voice, telling of a wom Wildly disenchanted 1960s Hollywood. This is a story about Maria, and to tell more is to ruin the swirl of consciousness. It is stark, the tarnished and penumbral side of glamour. How hard won "glamour" is. The winners, the losers, the rising and the falling; they all portray the tenuous hold each has. So close to the edge. Honestly, I don't recommend this story to anyone that isn't in a good headspace because it's brutal in a nihilistic manner. That said, it is a fantastic voice, telling of a woman's story. I loved the abortion. I find it hysterically amusing that the more men attempt to control women's bodies the more workarounds there are. If you haven't ever talked to women and discussed abortion through the decades, you should because it is fascinating. It's always been there and always will. The only question remaining is how dangerous. My body is not state property to legislate. --yeah, this is my personal statement and not related to the book, per se. If you live in a shithole state, there are plenty of workarounds--Follow the internet crumbs. As if one needs it straight up: this is NOT politically correct. <<*>> A gift to myself for 2019 Indie Bookstore Day from Pages.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Katherine

    Full of memorable lines and utterly engrossing, Play it as It Lays is a new favorite. I read it pretty quickly but it took a lot out of me to do so. Must find more Didion...

  25. 4 out of 5

    Brian

    This novel starts out with its protagonist, Maria Wyeth, asking an interesting question. She says, "What makes Iago evil? some people ask. I never ask." A person who knows who they are never asks such a question. But I don't fully believe that our protagonist is such a person. In fact she, along with the rest of the book's cast of characters, doesn't even seem fully dimensional to me. Stylistically the text is interesting. The chapters are very short, and we are told the story in a nonlinear fash This novel starts out with its protagonist, Maria Wyeth, asking an interesting question. She says, "What makes Iago evil? some people ask. I never ask." A person who knows who they are never asks such a question. But I don't fully believe that our protagonist is such a person. In fact she, along with the rest of the book's cast of characters, doesn't even seem fully dimensional to me. Stylistically the text is interesting. The chapters are very short, and we are told the story in a nonlinear fashion, with a lot of gaps. This makes the reader feel disconcerted and disjointed, and Ms. Didion was successful in her attempt to make the book's style reflect its protagonist's state of mind. Ms. Didion's writing also reminds me a lot of Hemmingway. "Play It As It Lays" is not a text for the casual reader, although it is a quick read. A big stumbling block for me is that I just could not shake the nagging feeling that this text is terribly dated. Its content might have been shocking and useful as tools to express the emptiness of one's life in 1970, but the things it depicts (abortion, S&M, drug use, etc.) is now seen daily on HBO. Didion uses the aforementioned items in a powerful and non-gratuitous manner in the text, but it just does not shock the senses as much now as it must have 40 plus years ago. "Play It As It Lays" does have many things going for it however. The way in which the abortion and its aftermath are portrayed in the text is difficult to read, and the raw intensity of the emotion shown is tautly and clearly rendered. The protagonist's marriage is also horrifically, and wonderfully, written. They say horrid things to each other. They are downright cruel. It is an unexplainable marriage, and it reeks of reality. I guess the reason why I did not enjoy this text is that I feel it is just a very hopeless book. The novel's closing line sounds hopeful, but it does not feel hopeful at all. Be warned, this is not a pleasant story to consume.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Elaine Mullane || At Home in Books

    Joan Didion is a brilliant and fascinating writer. Her writing is razor sharp and dissects American culture in a way that is both blistering and brutally refreshing. Her journalism is of great importance, with her being responsible for the earliest mainstream media article suggesting The Central Park Five had been wrongly convicted and her reportage that brought Californian subcultures to the forefront in the 1960s. Play It As It Lays is set in 1960's California and opens with the story of Maria Joan Didion is a brilliant and fascinating writer. Her writing is razor sharp and dissects American culture in a way that is both blistering and brutally refreshing. Her journalism is of great importance, with her being responsible for the earliest mainstream media article suggesting The Central Park Five had been wrongly convicted and her reportage that brought Californian subcultures to the forefront in the 1960s. Play It As It Lays is set in 1960's California and opens with the story of Maria Wyeth, a 30-something has-been actress who is recovering from a mental breakdown in a psychiatric hospital. The novel then moves back in time to before the hospital, to grim but glamourous Hollywood as Maria's career slows and personal life collapses. As well as featuring an inner monologue from Maria and short reminiscences from both her best friend and her ex-husband, Play It As It Lays is narrated from a third-person perspective in eighty-four chapters of terse, controlled and highly visual prose. This is quite typical of Didion who, as a writer, is concerned with the importance of the way sentences work within a text. This book is quietly terrifying. Maria's disintegration and descent into madness - her abortion; the end of her marriage; her aimless drives around Hollywood freeways, pistol in hand; her lost weeks in Las Vegas - serves to highlight a society devoid of principles and an acknowledgement of the belief in the absolute meaninglessness of life. Play It As It Lays is certainly not an uplifting read but you won't be able to tear your eyes away from it. It is a startling and poignant exploration of the struggle between self and society and the difference between living and merely surviving. A 'beautiful disaster'. Suggested soundtrack: Lana Del Rey, of course.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Vartika

    3.5 stars “What makes Iago evil? Some people ask. I never ask.” These are the lines with which Joan Didion opens her astounding novel, Play It As It Lays: It is thus that we first make our introduction with the weariness and nihilism that clings to the protagonist Maria Wyeth throughout this book like an oppressive, cloudy mist; it is through this mist that we see Maria and feel her disaffection with her life and with the moral ambiguity of the world she inhabits. Maria knows what nothing m 3.5 stars “What makes Iago evil? Some people ask. I never ask.” These are the lines with which Joan Didion opens her astounding novel, Play It As It Lays: It is thus that we first make our introduction with the weariness and nihilism that clings to the protagonist Maria Wyeth throughout this book like an oppressive, cloudy mist; it is through this mist that we see Maria and feel her disaffection with her life and with the moral ambiguity of the world she inhabits. Maria knows what nothing means: she hails from nowhere—Silver Wells, Nevada, once an opportunity but no longer; not even a ghost town—and first speaks to us from a mental institution, which in the 60s (as well as today) counts as both a nowhere and a nothingness. She is a nobody; a burnt out model and actress with two movies made by her estranged husband to her name; a daughter without parents and a parent without access to her daughter. She is a nothingness, losing herself in the daze of drugs and sex and speeding down the Californian freeways when she wishes to feel in control. Even so, Maria is not a novel character—the punch in this book comes not from what the story portrays or deals with, but rather from how it is told. Play It As It Lays begins with a chapter in the voice of Maria, followed by one each narrated by her friend Helene and husband Carter respectively. However, the rest of the novel is narrated in third person, a stylistic depersonalisation which renders the thematic distance all the more resounding. Both Didion and her protagonist (or supremely alienated anti-heroine, if you will) are sharp observers free of the entanglements of cause-effect, resulting in a narrative that reads like a fever dream, to similar effect as in Clarice Lispector's A Breath of Life, except that there is a certain method and determination to Maria's madness, which supplements the elegiac grace of Didion's prose. The result is uniquely compelling, if also exceptionally depressing: "By the end of a week she was thinking constantly about where her body stopped and the air began, about the exact point in space and time that was the difference between Maria and other. She had the sense that if she could get that in her mind and hold it for even one micro-second she would have what she had come to get." Perhaps one of Didion's greatest achievements with this novel is the eerie balance she forges between Maria's sensitivity to her self and her body and the fact that she is entirely divorced from its pain, something that renders even the rare flash of visceral, bodily details in the story feels muted. Given that it is the 60s that this story is set in (and the 70s, when it was published), one is pushed to feel that it must be her experiences of motherhood—as barely and almost—that drives her to entropy. But isn't it everything, and more crucially, nothing? And then there are the snakes. The particulars of Maria's nihilism are doled out to the reader largely through the imagery of snakes, but the novel's philosophical climax does not take place until the very last pages, which are interwoven, again, with sections in Maria's own voice. There is only one time in the entire novel (aside from when she's talking about her daughter) that Maria truly claims the observation she is making, and while many have critiqued this book for being philosophically weak (and reinforcing the very conservatism that nihilism responds to), Play It As It Lays would still be worth reading for that one moment alone.

  28. 5 out of 5

    kasia

    Hmm. Star ratings are tricky here. I'm giving it a 3 for my own enjoyment of it, but it probably deserves a four for being so well written. Although I didn't exactly relish this book, I did read it in one sitting. I love Joan Didion's essays, so I was excited to try a novel. But this is not really my kind of book. If you like Bret Easton Ellis novels, you'll probably love this. If you like reading about rich people wandering aimlessly through their lives and shuddering through the death throes of Hmm. Star ratings are tricky here. I'm giving it a 3 for my own enjoyment of it, but it probably deserves a four for being so well written. Although I didn't exactly relish this book, I did read it in one sitting. I love Joan Didion's essays, so I was excited to try a novel. But this is not really my kind of book. If you like Bret Easton Ellis novels, you'll probably love this. If you like reading about rich people wandering aimlessly through their lives and shuddering through the death throes of their emotional lives, this is the book for you. It's one of those stories where a suicide attempt or other such self-destructive act serves to remind you that the character does have some kind of feelings. I'm not saying that to be snide - I think there is something impressive about novels like that, and they are often a really skillful portrayal of affect, or rather, its lack. You might argue that they are an investigation into what it means to be human, that takes a kind of extreme as its entry point, and I will totally grant you that there is something really interesting going on there. It's just that I just don't especially enjoy reading it, these days. Didion is, however, an incredible writer. Like I said already, the book has momentum. The pacing is especially clever, with chapters ranging in length from a few pages to a paragraph. The language is unadorned but powerful. I was completely absorbed. I guess the take away message here is, if you're going to read one 'emotionally-vacant-character-making-a-mess-of-herself' novel this year, it might as well be this one.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Zach

    Oof. The Sheltering Sky meets The Great Gatsby as rewritten by Raymond Carver? Only... even more depressing and bleak than that sounds? Hence the "oof," you know. Normally I just want books about poor, poor rich people to spare me, but this one worked by never losing sight of the fact that these hedonists were constantly digging their own holes. Oof. The Sheltering Sky meets The Great Gatsby as rewritten by Raymond Carver? Only... even more depressing and bleak than that sounds? Hence the "oof," you know. Normally I just want books about poor, poor rich people to spare me, but this one worked by never losing sight of the fact that these hedonists were constantly digging their own holes.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Matt

    Devastating. Lots of people try to get that anemic, quietly desperate, call of the void, decadent Hollywood thing, but it's not as easy to pull off as it sounds. This book is the evil fairy grandmother of that whole genre. Devastating. Lots of people try to get that anemic, quietly desperate, call of the void, decadent Hollywood thing, but it's not as easy to pull off as it sounds. This book is the evil fairy grandmother of that whole genre.

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