Title: Play It As It Lays
Author: Joan Didion
Publication Date: 1970 (2005 edition)
Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux
Genre: Realistic fiction
Genre: Realistic fiction
Age Rating: Readers over 14
My Opinion: 8/10
I have finally reached a breakthrough - I'm finally starting to understand post-modernism! Woohoo! Joan Didion does an excellent job representing the difficult power dynamics of Hollywood for both males and females in the 1970's in Play It As It Lays. It's not a novel that I would typically enjoy, but Didion's powerful yet concise writing drew me in and held my attention.
Maria (pronounced Mariah by my professor, but I'm doubtful) is a washed up Hollywood actress struggling to come to terms with her separation from her husband, Carter, the absence of her institutionalized child, Kate, and her various affairs with different men. When Carter forces her to get an abortion, she spirals into depression and is only able to talk to her friend BZ, a movie producer. She goes through the motions of life while watching those around her. Maria's observations give her a number of insight to life as she knows it, and she questions what her purpose is and how to continue on with life.
As you can most likely tell based on that short summary, Play It As It Lays deals with a variety of very diverse issues - abortion, monogamy and affairs, depression, the Hollywood system of patriarchy, sexual orientation, and identity. These issues can be quite overwhelming at first because Didion throws readers right into the plot with hardly any character introduction. We are forced to learn more about the characters and their histories as the novel progresses, making Didion's character development extremely interesting to read about. One of my favorite characters is BZ because his identity slowly becomes revealed piece by piece over time.
|Author Joan Didion|
One of the most interesting characteristics of Didion's writing in Play It As It Lays is the length of the novel's chapters. The longest chapter cannot be more than five pages in length, and some chapters are as short as a few sentences. Each chapter seems to be a different moment in Maria's life. At first, they seem unrelated, but as the story develops, the chapters become more and more intertwined. By the end, it reads as a practically coherent novel and many truths become evident.
I personally found Didion's discussion of life in Hollywood during the 1970's to be fascinating. Although her characters are not particularly likeable, they are very complex and well-developed. I would recommend Play It As It Lays if you are looking for a fairly comprehensible post-modernism novel.