Jessica's Reviews > Play It as It Lays

Play It as It Lays by Joan Didion
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Mar 12, 2009

liked it
bookshelves: california-über-alles, crazy-ladies, happyendings, chicklits
Recommended for: film industry wives? or people obsessed with LA
Read in March, 2009

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.
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03/23 marked as: read

Comments (showing 1-4 of 4) (4 new)

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Hallie I look forward to hearing what you think of this. P.S. I need some War and Peace encouragement.


message 2: by Ademption (last edited Mar 13, 2009 10:52AM) (new)

Ademption There's a movie adaptation starring Anthony Perkins & Tuesday Weld. Didion also wrote the screenplay.

Play It As It Lays (1972)

I found a bootleg copy, and plan on watching it this weekend. I had a similar distaste for Didion, and will use this flick as an icebreaking introduction. Great timing for the review!


message 3: by Weinz (last edited Mar 13, 2009 08:57AM) (new) - rated it 3 stars

Weinz So now I can't decide. I've had this book sitting on my shelf just waiting to be read (because I am not as strong as you and do succumb to the lure of cover art far too often)but I have her essays as well. Where do I turn first?


message 4: by Lynn (new)

Lynn I have never been able to get into Dideon. I used to have a copy of The White Album somewhere around here, unless you have it, but I cannot remember anything about it. But Rachel likes her too and it sounds like you do, just not this book. I dunno - maybe you have to be a native californian to appreciate her.


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