Wednesday, August 30, 2017

What I Read: Play It As It Lays

Just one more book left in my TIME Top 100 novels list, now! Too bad it's The Man Who Loved Children and too bad I just can't get into it. Even with a ringing endorsement from Adam at Memento Mori. Ughhhhh~~

Didion takes us on a brief tour of Maria Wyeth's crumbling marriage and mental breakdown in the arid landscape of Los Angeles. Many of the reviews I've read for Play It as It Lays call it "depressing," even "terrifying," but I largely suspect that response has to do with how squeamish you are about abortion (and how squeamish you are about women feeling, at worst, vague and ambiguous about getting abortions, rather than eternally regretful and emotionally destroyed). Of course, there is other heavy stuff going on here, too: heavy substance abuse, off-screen (off-page?) domestic violence, an overdose, and other Hollywood indulgences. I liked Didion's writing and was happy to hitch a ride with Maria Wyeth for a while to visit her gilded cage of a world, but nothing about it shook me to my core. (Maybe that's how you know you're depressed? Hm.)

A comparison to Day of the Locust is maybe apt, since both books are about the dysfunction of Hollywood, but Didion pulls it off way better. Play It As It Lays could also possibly fall into the Dysfunctional Rich White People category on the TIME Top 100 Novels list, up there with Rabbit, Run and Revolutionary Road, but Didon does it better as well. Even if I'm not particularly haunted by the book, I enjoyed reading it. Her prose is light and direct, and I'm going to have to find more from her in the future.

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