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2018 Book #34 - Play It As It Lays by Joan Didion



Joan Didion stares unblinkingly into the emptiness and disconnection we are always turning away from. What does it matter? Why bother? She doesn't help you with these questions. But I love her austere prose and fragmented dialogue. I enjoy gazing into the void through her eyes.

It's the story of a woman losing the plot, unable to sustain relationships, numbed by the shallowness of her world & the people she knows, paralyzed by vigilance born of the knowledge that people can just suddenly die or lose interest & drift away. Or turn on you.

The tv drones in the background as people sleep around and gossip half-heartedly. She tries to escape by driving aimlessly but she always winds up somewhere. Somewhere with people. People talking. They expect her to say something back but she can't think of anything. She's an actress and working stops the buzz in her head but in order to get work, you have to talk to people, don't you? Plus she's getting older and the roles are getting thinner. She has an abortion, which gives her nightmares and sharpens the sense of emptiness & loss. Her ex-husband wants to give it another try but it's no use and he winds up sleeping on the couch. She goes to Vegas alone, without knowing why, wandering around, chasing some sensation she can't quite pin down, but keeps running into people she knows. People who talk. Everyone is concerned about her and also irritated by her. Things get worse.

"A good part of any day in Los Angeles is spent driving, alone, through streets devoid of mean­ing to the driver, which is one reason the place ex­hilarates some people, and floods others with an amorphous unease. There is about these hours spent in transit a seductive unconnectedness.” (Joan Didion, from After Henry)

In this novel, the heroine experiences both the seduction and the unease. Unease is the winner by a mile.
Tags: 2018 book reviews
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