Democracy
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Democracy

3.81 of 5 stars 3.81  ·  rating details  ·  1,179 ratings  ·  102 reviews
Inez Victor knows that the major casualty of the political life is memory. But the people around Inez have made careers out of losing track. Her senator husband wants to forget the failure of his last bid for the presidency. Her husband's handler would like the press to forget that Inez's father is a murderer. And, in 1975, the year in which much of this bitterly funny nov...more
Paperback, 234 pages
Published April 25th 1995 by Vintage International (first published 1984)
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Greg
Damn, so many of the reviews for this book are terrible. I kind of want to get a gazillion votes for this review just so that it will come before some of the nonsense in the other reviews. Any talk of post-modernism or meta-fiction or there being too many characters in this novel (there aren't that many, more than say the one in certain Beckett works, but less than in a Dickens or Pynchon novel), also plug the ears in your head that listen when you are reading to any of cries that the book is du...more
Kim Fay
As much as I am a fan of "Slouching Toward Bethlehem," I think that this is my favorite Joan Didion book. It presumes so much on the part of the reader -- that we already know about the intricacies of the characters' lives and the underbelly of the Vietnam War, and more so, that we care about any of it. In this book, Didion does not seem to write at all for the reader. She seems to be writing to answer some question whispering to her inside her own thoughts. While the novel "The Descendants" (I...more
Kerry
Almost a roman a clef with Kennedy-esque characters. Didion's prose, the laconic dialogue, the detached, knowing narrator, the interviews with the characters, the wait and see lovers - I can't express how effectively Didion evokes the surrealism of Vietnam for "non-actors" At one point the narrator describes the implosion of time as the USA pulls out of Vietnam, that is timeless.
I've been trying to write a screen play of this for 10 years
Kyle
Structurally this book sort of demolished my mind. I'm in awe.
LauraLou
Inez Victor knows that the major casualty of the political life is memory. But the people around Inez have made careers out of losing track. Her senator husband wants to forget the failure of his bid for the presidency. Her husband's handler would like the press to forget that Inez's father is a murderer. And, in 1975, the year in which this bitterly funny over is set, America is doing its best to lose track of its one-time client, the the lethally hemorrhaging republic of south Vietnam. As conc...more
Jessica
Sep 12, 2011 Jessica rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommended to Jessica by: zan
I'm slowly making my way through Didion's novels, and this one was a surprise. In her non-fiction, she has a way of writing about things and inserting herself into subjects like "Hawaii" and "water sources in southern California" - always interesting; however, I've never seen her do it in her fiction until this novel.

She acts as another character nearly, at first just as the writer and divulges in how she means to introduce these characters and their tragedy. In this way, it almost reads like a...more
Elaine
This was an odd book. It was a meta-fiction, fake memoir/biography, mystery with little substance behind it. There were a lot of characters and I found it difficult to keep them all straight, especially when there wasn't much interaction between them. The characters were extremely well developed, but the plot was not at all, and I didn't see the point of the author's inserting herself into the story. I didn't really see the point of the novel, actually. However, let it be known that I pretty muc...more
Lisa
Maybe I'm biased (ha), but this is just to freaking post-modern for me. Fractured & splintered I can handle. Boring I cannot. This one just didn't interest me, though, like DeLillo's Mao II, it raises some fine points about the media's function in our contemporary world.
Jesse Call
I'll have to admit I was initially put-off by Didion's narrative interjections -- it seemed kitschy at best, and for her to once again demurely mention the college textbook she was featured in for her essays seemed particularly self-aggrandizing -- but as I pushed through the novel, I came to find her impatience for traditional plot devices in what is a fundamentally boring story quite charming.

This is a book that isn't really about "the story" in the conventional sense; to be quite honest, the...more
Nikki
May 21, 2007 Nikki added it
Recommends it for: Everyone who enjoys rhythmic, though navel-gazing, writing styles
I adored this book for far too many reasons to list. Pretty much everyone else I know hates it and hates all that Didion writes. For whatever reason I am very much drawn to her writing style despite her obvious shortcomings
Carolyn
War, post-colonialism, presidential politics, murder, international intrigue, sibling rivalry, betrayal, parental failure, enduring love--all of this in just over 200 pages of Joan Didion's inimitable prose.
Christine
I'm still figuring out how I feel about this book. So three stars seems fair. I think I'm just too dumb to be reading Didion.
Juanita Rice
My first experience of Didion! And I'm enthralled. Above all, I am relieved to finally find a book I unequivocally enjoyed. The last three or four books I've read have all been disappointing and I was beginning to feel like the Grinch, assailing a happy world I didn't like. All these well-liked books, and I was not amused or pleased: Austerlitz, White Noise, The Elegance of the Hedgehog, and Broken for You: worse and worse. I was beginning to suspect myself of being an arrogant crank, reading bo...more
Hank Stuever
After feeling disappointed by "Run River" and "A Book of Common Prayer," and having worked my way through all her other books that existed at that point, I took it slow with "Democracy." (It was her journalism I wanted more of, circa 1991, which was coming at a slow but somewhat steady clip in pieces she wrote for The New York Review of Books and, less occasionally, the Robert Gottlieb-era New Yorker. I began to realize that I was running out of new Didion stuff to discover.)

Anyhow, "Democracy."...more
Mitchell
When I first read this book in 1984 I was absolutely staggered. Immediately, I flipped back to the beginning and read it again. I'm sure I've read it a couple of more times since, and this latest re-read has merely confirmed that this must be my all-time favorite book. Although I've been land-locked for the past number of years, I am -- in essence -- a person of the Pacific, and Didion's book IS the Pacific.

Still, it's a complicated little book and demands more from the reader than most. One mus...more
Patrick
I would give this book a 2.5 because althought I thought it rather dull there were important lessons in the book about governmental inconsistencies which leads to fragmentation of governmental policies and the chaos the ensues that are mirrored by the characters who happen to be involve in government.

A book about a love affair between a senators's wife and a black-ops agent stationed abroad. At is very essense this book makes fun of America as an ideal and strives to show its inconsistencies be...more
Nicole Cheslock
"The Year of Magical Thinking" is the first Joan Didion book I read. I picked it up a couple weeks ago and was hooked. Looked forward to delving into more of her work - both nonfiction and fiction.
Next up - "Where I was from". I struggled through the first dozens of pages, maybe because I'm not a natural history buff, didn't instantly connect with the names, the content. Pushed it to the other side of the nightstand.
Then I picked up "Democracy."
It's the only book I've ever immediately turned...more
Ron Mckinney
On DEMOCRACY, A NOVEL BY JOAN DIDION

The other day I was asked: “What are you currently reading?” I happened to have “Democracy” close to my elbow at that moment. So that was my answer, but it wasn’t true, because I was actually reading some drivel about Aldus Huxley on the monitor and wishing I hadn’t fired up the computer.

I’ve actually read Democracy four times, maybe five, and enjoy it more with each reading. Why? Because Joan Didion is not only a damn fine story teller, but she narrates the s...more
Alec Scott
The cool of this book and it's Jackie O. heroine. We see the veneer of a woman who weathers a presidential campaign by her Berkeley-progressive (and deeply phony) husband's side -- as well as her husband's adoring policy wonk mistress/PA. She has an affair of her own -- the chemistry of this passionate, whole-life affair -- it smolders from the page. We see the awful narrowness of the top family compacts that run Hawaii at the mid-century. Didion takes us inside the corridors of power, shows us...more
BoekenTrol
Mar 25, 2013 BoekenTrol rated it 1 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Tubereader
Recommended to BoekenTrol by: tabby-cat-owner
I agree with Greg (who wrote a review earlier), that the opening of this novel is a beautiful one. Having no idea where the book was goint to take me, I had my hopes up and settled for a good read. Not an easy one, but that didn't matter.

When I got a little bit in the style of writng used, I got more and more disappointed though. And at the end there was only one conclusion to draw, being that I didn't like the book.
For me it made not much sense, the way it was written. Jumping up and down, bac...more
Patrick McCoy
I am slowly making my way through Joan Didion's oeuvre and Democracy (1984) is easily one of her best works of fiction. I think it incorporates many of her interests and themes. For example, Inez victory is unhappily married to a politician and gets involved with a former lover, a behind-the-scenes fixer in faraway locales, Jack Lovett. She shuttles from Honolulu (Hawaii is special place for Didion), California, to distant capitals in SE Asia: Manila, Jakarta, and Kula Lumpur. The novel is set i...more
Christopher
Mar 23, 2008 Christopher rated it 3 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: everyone
Didion is a favorite author of mine. This is her first work of fiction I have read, and I found it very enjoyable. The book was published in 1984, when post-modern techniques would have been much more in vogue, and while I will spare you my thoughts on post-modernism in today's culture, I think that aspects of this book that would have been acceptable and insightful and maybe even avant-garde in 1984 detract from its potential now (like introducing herself as a character, making it seem at times...more
Tyler
Jul 22, 2009 Tyler rated it 3 of 5 stars
Shelves: 2009
As in the two other Joan Didion novels I have read, she works here with the idea of fragmentation in contemporary life, of 'losing the thread' (I only half-quote that phrase because I am not completely sure if she herself has ever used it in her writing, but it sounds like she would.) The jagged and acerbic chapters in Play It As It Lays attest to this, as does the Jonestown-like malaise that permeates A Book Of Common Prayer. She takes this theme almost to the extreme here, playing with her own...more
Brian
I love Joan Didion's style. I haven't read much by her and look to remedy that.

1. The way Democracy is narrated, with Joan Didion, author, being a person the characters interact with, makes the story feel like non-fiction. Very cool.

2. There is a fixation on certain details that feels realistic. Who ended up with Leilani Thayer's koa settee? (While reading this, I learned that my maternal grandmother's mahogany bedroom set is the bedroom set that my paternal grandparents had when they were first...more
Sean
Well that didn't work at all. A kind of novel as news reportage. Sort of. With Didion adding herself as a character, someone who knows the main character, Inez, and is reporting what she said about some things that happened. Which things amount to one thing, which is that Inez had a long-standing affair with some old guy. It's sort of political, this book, in that the main characters are involved in politics. Most of the characters are referred to by first and last names all the time, which is b...more
Yvonne
Politics, southeast asia, the 70's, love, affluence, courage... these are a few of themes. Joan Didion is a very intelligent, experienced in life writer. I find her books totally engrossing and insightful.

She is all alone now - Joan, that is. She and her husband John Griffin Dunne were a dynamic team - journalists and novelists. But John died of a heartache at the dinner table about 4 years ago now and her only child, an adult daughter died a year later. Joan wrote a sad, amazing book about that...more
Lauren

This book was recommended to me by Jessica and it was indeed a great recommendation.

This book captivated me from the beginning. Didion's rhythmic way of writing pulls the reader in, like being grabbed by a particularly catchy musical melody. I was initially jarred by her placement of herself as a kind of character in the book, and indeed checked wikipedia to ensure that it was a novel as I had thought and not a work of nonfiction. That said, her presence in the book was never off putting for me.

...more
Holly
This was my first book by Didion, and I was in over my head. The writing was spare and, thus, one knew every section was added under scrutiny - especially when Didion dropped hints about adding this or eliminating that. It's a post modern masterpiece; I wonder whether it's taught in university classes?

I read an amazing analysis of the book by Alan Nadel in "boundary". He believes the novel takes a post-modern angle in the way Didion alludes to the novel that wasn't written but could have been, g...more
Christina
This was a strange yet decent read. It took a bit to pick up on the author's writing style. Very developed characters but the plot was dry - when I finished the book I was indifferent, not moved. The story revolved around a campaigner's wife, Inez Victor. She is from Hawaii, but manages to get wrapped up in politics with meeting and marrying her husband (out of wedlock). Throughout the story, which jumps back and forth in time within a period of 20 years, she is having a secret affair with CIA a...more
Leah
"Happiness” and “unhappiness” did not even seem to be cards in the hand she normally played, and there on the deck in the thin morning sunlight she resolved to reconstruct the details of occasions on which she recalled being happy. As she considered such occasions she was struck by their insignificance, their absence of application to the main events of her life. In retrospect she seemed to have been most happy in borrowed houses, and at lunch." (58-59)

Not to mention:

"Let the reader be introduce...more
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Joan Didion was born in California and lives in New York City. She's best known for her novels and her literary journalism.

Her novels and essays explore the disintegration of American morals and cultural chaos, where the overriding theme is individual and social fragmentation. A sense of anxiety or dread permeates much of her work.
More about Joan Didion...
The Year of Magical Thinking Slouching Towards Bethlehem Blue Nights Play It as It Lays The White Album

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