Play It as It Lays
by Joan Didion
A ruthless dissection of American life in the late 1960s, Play It as It Lays captures the mood of an entire generation, the ennui of contemporary society reflected in spare prose that blisters and haunts the reader. Set in a place beyond good and evil – literally in Hollywood, Las Vegas, and the barren wastes of the Mojave Desert, but figuratively in the landscape of an arid soul – it remains more than three decades after its original publication a profoundly disturbing novel, riveting in its exploration of a woman and a society in crisis and stunning in the still-startling intensity of its prose.
I won “Play It as It Lays” and two other Joan Didion books (“Slouching Towards Bethlehem” & “The White Album”) in a competition run by subscription box Reading in Heels. I didn’t get on with my first Didion book, so I started this one cautiously. At only 214 pages, I figured that if it wasn’t my cup of tea, it wouldn’t take me long to finish.
Unlike “Slouching Towards Bethlehem”, this book is fiction and explores the story of Maria Wyeth in the 1960s. Maria is in her early thirties, she’s an actress, she’s divorced and her life is full of chaos.
And I’m sorry to say that I was right being wary of trying another of Didion’s books. I just don’t understand the hype surrounding them! When I wasn’t bored, I was confused and lost. I felt that a lot of the pages were filled with arguments and angry, shouty dialogue that I really didn’t enjoy reading. When you actually look at the plot, there isn’t much happening and it’s very vague and kind of awkward.
The writing style is not really my thing either. I’m generally not a fan of waffle and lengthy descriptions, but for me Didion has gone completely the other way by writing so sparsely and in such short paragraphs that I’m just not interested.
Overall rating: I tried to like “Play It as It Lays” and at times I did think that it was picking up, but I think I’ve come to the conclusion that Joan Didion is just not for me and I’ll be donating my third and final book rather than struggling through another! Another 1 star review from me.
See my other reviews of books by Joan Didion here: