rating: 4 of 5 stars
We’ve all been there, haven’t we? Feeling that our lives are falling apart…that nothing is going right…having sex with all of your male acquaintances…doing drugs whenever they are available to you. Errrm, okay, maybe we haven’t all gone to THAT extreme.
In Joan Didion’s Play It as It Lays, the heroine of the story is Maria Wyeth, a Hollywood Starlet who’s life is in a downward spiral. The book is set on the cusp of the 1960’s and 1970’s ,where we find 30-something Maria becoming less and less capable of dealing with her life. She’s recently divorced from her film director husband, Carter Lang. Her four year old daughter is institutionalized. Maria can’t (or more accurately, doesn’t want to exert the effort to) find work as an actress and passes her time with drugs and casual sex. She moves through her life in an almost catatonic state…bouncing between Las Vegas and Hollywood.
Play It as It Lays tells a bleak tale of a woman coming undone. It is decidedly not a feel good novel. The characters aren’t particularly likable as they all seem self-involved. Didion’s writing was intelligent, sparse, precise and captivating. The powerful narrative is divided up into short chapters offering glimpses into Maria’s crumbling world.
Play It as It Lays is part of the list of 1001 Books to Read Before You Die and counts towards the 1% Well Read challenge that I am participating in.