Abe Brennan's Reviews > Play It as It Lays

Play It as It Lays by Joan Didion
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May 17, 07

Read in February, 2007

A novel in snippets, Joan Didion’s Play It As It Lays begins with three passages narrated in the first person by three of the main characters—the focus of these people’s observations is Maria, the first of the three, and the main character of the novel. The rest of the book is comprised of 84 pieces of prose narrated in the third person from Maria’s point of view. What emerges from these episodic glimpses into the hazy world of a would-be starlet, wife, and mother is a portrait of dissolution, decadence, and, mostly, despair on the part of all parties involved. None of these people are very likable, but they hold our interest, largely because of Ms. Didion’s incisive prose stylings, but also because she manages to capture that peculiar blend of ennui and misery that beset those in the modern world with a penchant for thinking. This is a masterful character study, not a caricature. Nevertheless, by the end of it, we’re left wondering if Hollywood is English for Babylon and feeling like BZ had the right idea.
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