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Play It As It Lays
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1001 book reviews > Play It As It Lays - Didion

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Kristel (kristelh) | 3801 comments Mod
Read 2014; Review: This is a story about “nothing”. Set in the sixties and mostly hollywood, the story tells about a young woman’s journey into madness. There is nothing happy about this book and thankfully it is short. I wanted to read it because I loved Ms Didion’s book, A Year of Magical Thinking which was a memoir. This was a novel. Still, Ms Didion’s writing is delivered. I like her writing. This story is told in every increasing sparseness as the protagonist slips further and further into depression or madness. I would compare this to The Yellow Wallpaper and The Bell Jar.

Gail (gailifer) | 1187 comments I finished reading Play It As It Lays and much like Kristel loved A Year of Magical Thinking and was looking forward to Didion's fiction. Didion's writing delivered in this sparse story about a young actress estranged from her director husband in the nihilistic Hollywood and Vegas of the 60's. The Main Character connects with nothing in her life except her daughter who has been taken away from her for only vaguely described health reasons. At various moments she seems to reach out and want to be with her husband, wants to be connected to the car on the freeway, connected to alcohol but ultimately she surrenders to bundling herself in a cocoon of connecting to nothing with a complete indifference to the activities of people around her.
The book was startling when first published for the profile of a women so divorced from reality and also for descriptions of extramarital sex, violence, and an abortion. Today, it is still startling but more purely for the crisp raw writing about the unraveling of a mind.

Valerie Brown | 501 comments read Sept. 2021

I found the first quarter of this book rather excruciating. The ennui induced ennui in me and it was a distasteful thought to get back to reading this novel. Then the novel picked up when the one event of the story happens (not going to spoil it). Although, ‘picked up’ is relative; at least there was finally a focus. It still is a novel about a group of self-absorbed, extremely shallow people who are so clued out that we never get to know who they are because they haven’t the first idea either. More than likely that was one of Didion’s points. I can see that this would have been ‘profoundly disturbing’ and ‘startling’ (GR description) when it was first published. However, that isn’t the case now. If it wasn’t for the writing, I suspect this would just be lumped in with the other books like that are similar. Didion’s writing is the only thing that got me through the first quarter, and it remained superior throughout the rest of the novel. 3.5*

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