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Democracy

3.82  ·  Rating details ·  2,297 ratings  ·  207 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 ...more
Paperback, 234 pages
Published April 25th 1995 by Vintage International (first published 1984)
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Average rating 3.82  · 
Rating details
 ·  2,297 ratings  ·  207 reviews


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Greg
Mar 20, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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 ...more
Jola
Jul 08, 2017 rated it really liked it
At first sight the words charm and harm differ in one letter only but the contrast in their meaning is dramatic. Strangely enough, 'Democracy' by Joan Didion has charmed me and harmed me at the same time.

Democracy has charmed me.
The first thing that enchanted me instantly was Joan Didions writing style. Ive never experienced anything like that before. The unsettling, highly addictive rhythm of her sentences, with many cadenced repetitions and anaphoras, resonated with me like music which goes
...more
Mitchell
Sep 07, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
...more
Eric
Apr 29, 2015 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: ficciones
The first meeting of Inez Christian and Jack Lovett at the ballet - the beginning of Lovett's "grave attraction" that would last over twenty years - is the sexiest scene I've read in a while:

Cissy Christian smoking a cigarette in her white jade holder. Inez, wearing dark glasses...pinning and repinning a gardenia in her damp hair. This is our niece, Inez, Dwight Christian said. Inez, Major Lovett. Jack. Inez, Mrs. Lovett. Carla. A breath of air, a cigarette. This champagne is lukewarm. One glass
...more
Kyle
May 09, 2007 rated it it was amazing
Structurally this book sort of demolished my mind. I'm in awe.
Steve
Feb 14, 2019 rated it it was ok
Shelves: fiction
At nearly the halfway point (the Intermission?) of Democracy Didion, in a meta moment warns (or reminds) the reader with "I am resisting narrative here." She's not lying. Actually, the reader is placed on notice as early as chapter 2 where the author seems triggered by some images from a Wallace Stevens' poem toward writing, in a half assed way, a novel. But, "[c]ards on the table," she informs the reader she's at a point in her life where she (Didion) lacks "certainty." But Vietnam, even ten ...more
Krystal
This is a novel about memory, personal and political. It is a masterpiece. Democracy is Joan Didions fourth novel, preceded by Run River, Play It As It Lays and A Book of Common Prayer. It was published in 1984. The novel takes place between Honolulu and Jakarta at the hemorrhaging end of the Vietnam War.

It is written as a kind of memoir of Inez Victor, wife of U.S. Senator Harry Victor, told from the perspective of a peculiar narrator. The narrator is none other than Joan Didion.
She is also
...more
Kim Fay
Jan 28, 2012 rated it it was amazing
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
Aaron  J. Clark
Mar 11, 2015 rated it really liked it
I don't usually mind when writers insert themselves into their own work. I generally like postmodern fiction/metafiction. I also appreciate it when an author intentionally plays with the traditional "linear" narrative, when "plot" is not "beginning, middle, and end", in that order. Didion does all of those things in Democracy, and she is obviously a talented writer, yet Democracy just doesn't "do" it for me. In Democracy, she comes off as an egotist in her intrusions and ramblings, and she isn't ...more
M.L. Rio
Jan 18, 2020 rated it really liked it
Shelves: books-i-own, literary
This book is so strange, but if you're a writer you should read it.
Mehrsa
Aug 22, 2018 rated it really liked it
I imagine the book was innovative and creative even when it was published, but it's still pretty creative and clever. Didion is a brilliant writer and a pleasure to read.
Matthew Wilder
Nov 15, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Sublime. Didion probably doesnt know Marguerite Duras, and probably wouldnt like her work if she did, but this is a gorgeous American palimpsest of Durasian ideas and styles: call it VIETNAM SONG. ...more
elisabeth
Jun 05, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: read-2018
Not to be a lesbian, but I love Joan Didion.
Paul Frandano
Ah...Joan Didions Democracyopaque, discursive, mysterious, hums with a sense of quietly lurking menace, fragmented time, a time, Didion observes...as "Joan Didion," inserting herself into her work of fiction, an observer in this novel, who is relating her imaginative yarn as a journalist's quest for an assembled-and-organized meaning, a "Rosebud," to all these disparate snippets of time, place, personality, calling cards, rumors, last-minute flights to exotic destinations, press clippings, ...more
John
Jun 05, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: novel-us
Warning! Metafiction ahead. A fascinating novel of rich people behaving badly during a dark time in US History (the fall of Saigon). As usual, Didion is an excellent prose stylist, and is even a character in the novel (hence my metafiction warning). The first 2 chapters of the book are very difficult to understand, but mercifully short. After that the book picks up.

Contains an excellent description of a wealthy Hawaii (Oahu) family, so fans of Kaui Hart Hemmings (The Descendants) will probably
...more
Keith Brooks
Sep 09, 2019 rated it it was amazing
I do not know (in words) how to describe this book. Perhaps on my second read-through.

Definitely my favorite Didion novel.
Diane Zwang
2.5 rounded up to 3

The author's profile page states: 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.

Joan Didion's writing style is very different, rapid fire sentences are short and to the point. The quote from the author's page fits this book to a T. I never really connected to this story or any of the characters. It is about a
...more
Dave
Apr 15, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
At first I thought the authorial interruptions and cut-up narrative a distraction, but I think that their distracting nature also tells part of the story. Which seems to be about how privilege, media coverage and the public life can kill/obscure real thoughts, memories, and feelings. Highly relevant today, by the way. The book as a whole reads like a Somerset Maugham novelThe Painted Veil or The Razors Edge spring to mind. Less lush than those, but more real. ...more
Juliet
Nov 25, 2017 rated it really liked it
Confusing at first but beautifully written, Didion sasses the shit out of you.
Sierra Bartlett
Aug 06, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Preferred this to a Book of Common Prayer.

"...and at the scene of all I had left unlearned I could summon up only fragments of poems, misremembered."
Jesse Call
Jan 13, 2014 rated it liked it
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
Patrick McCoy
Nov 18, 2013 rated it really liked it
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 ...more
Hank Stuever
Jul 16, 2013 rated it liked it
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
Nicola
Apr 07, 2015 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 1001-books
This was a pleasant surprise, I went into it not expecting very much and found myself hooked by the very first words.

The light at dawn during those Pacific tests was something to see.

Something to behold.

Something that could almost make you think you saw God, he said.

He said to her.

Jack Lovett said to Inez Victor.


Joan Didion uses her short sentences rather like short machine gun bursts, and it works well. It gives a sense of intimacy and longing, which echoes throughout the rest of the book even
...more
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 ...more
Jessica
Sep 12, 2011 rated it it was amazing
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
Sep 04, 2010 rated it it was ok
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 ...more
Ed
Feb 22, 2009 rated it really liked it
I am slowly re-reading much of Didion's work--I have read almost everything she has published (may have missed some uncollected short stories, if there are such things of hers) and taking time to savor her shockingly beautiful and telling prose. I was knocked out by "Democracy" the first time I read it and was even more impressed this time.
Kerry
Apr 04, 2009 rated it it was amazing
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
Carolyn
Jan 30, 2012 rated it it was amazing
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.
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Reading 1001: Democracy by Joan Didion 3 16 Mar 13, 2020 03:33PM  

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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.

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