Books Magazine

Book #85: Play It As It Lays

By Robert Bruce @robertbruce76

Have you ever known where a novel’s plot was going before it got there?

Sadly, I had a pretty good feeling how Play It As It Lays was headed just a few dozen pages into the book. It’s not that Joan Didion’s novel was predictable—I actually didn’t call the ending exactly—but it’s hard to read the book without seeing all the plot signs pointing in one direction.

The story focuses on Maria Wyeth, a downtrodden out-of-work actress who is trying to find her purpose in life following a divorce and an abortion she felt forced into by her ex-husband.

If Maria starts the novel as slightly depressed, she ends the novel pretty much as a basketcase. She resorts to heavy drinking, casual sex encounters, driving random freeways, and gets involved in a weird love triangle.

So, as you can see, this is yet another uplifting novel featured on the Time list. Joan Didion’s writing—which I had never experienced before this novel—is exceptional.

The tone of the novel reminds me a little of The Great Gatsby. It’s short and filled with symbols and motifs. When I hear about symbolism in literature, though, I always think about this. How much was intended and how much has academia read into her work?

Didion has said she was greatly inspired by Hemingway, and that shows in her writing. It’s dark and stark. The visuals she creates with her writing are incredible.

“After that he would leave for a while, breaking things as he went, slamming doors to kick them open, picking up decanters to hurl at mirrors, detouring by way of chairs to smash them against the floor. Always when he came back he would sleep in their room, shutting the door against her. Rigid with self-pity she would lie in another room, wishing for the will to leave. Each believed the other a murderer of time, a destroyer of life itself.”

I see a lot of Fitzgerald in that passage, don’t you? So good.

In all, Play It As It Lays is a good, not great, novel that gives an opportunity to let Joan Didion’s writing style shine.

Though it took me forever to read, the novel is actually short and you could read it in a couple of days. If you’re looking for a depressing, downer of a novel, then Play It As It Lays is a perfect choice.

Other Stuff

Opening Line: “What makes Iago evil? some people ask. I never ask.”

The Meaning: The title comes from this passage:

When I was ten years old my father taught me to assess quite rapidly the shifting probabilities on a craps layout: I could trace a layout in my sleep, the field here and the pass line all around, even money on Big Six or Eight, five-for-one on Any Seven. Always when I play back my father’s voice it is with a professional rasp, it goes as it lays, don’t do it the hard way. My father advised me that life itself was a crap game: it was one of the two lessons I learned as a child. The other was that overturning a rock was apt to reveal a rattlesnake. As lessons go those two seem to hold up, but not to apply.

Highlights: The novel is extremely readable and easy to digest, thanks to short chapters and Didion’s engaging style.

Lowlights: Dark, depressing novel. I’m tired of them.

Memorable Line: “I know what “nothing” means, and keep on playing.”

Final Thoughts: Good novel. Quick read. Didion’s writing is crisp, clean, and stark. Worth a weekend read if you want to give her a try.

You Might Also Like :

Back to Featured Articles on Logo Paperblog

These articles might interest you :

  • Big Food Giants Manipulate Public Health Policy in China

    Food Giants Manipulate Public Health Policy China

    Coca-Cola is at it again. As soda sales decline in the United States and Europe, beverage companies look to emerging economies like China for growth. And, it... Read more

    The 15 January 2019 by   Dietdoctor
  • Jewellery for a Precious You

    Jewellery Precious

    Jewellery is always close to a woman’s heart. It completes her look and boost confidence. Considering the changing trends in jewellery fashion, it becomes... Read more

    The 15 January 2019 by   Dr.jenifer Sayyed
  • Rajshri Productions’ Next Is A Film On Friendship | Hum Chaar | Trailer

    Abhishek Dixit’s debut feature film Hum Chaar is a Bollywood film made under the banner of Rajshri’s film. Hum Chaar is written and directed by Abhishek Dixit. Read more

    The 15 January 2019 by   Themoviean
  • Saint Paul the First Hermit

    Saint Paul First Hermit

    Today is the feast day of Saint Paul the hermit. This is a sweet and delicate Oatmeal Bread topped with rolled oats and naturally sweetened with agave. Saint... Read more

    The 15 January 2019 by   Veronica46
  • Irupathiyonnaam Noottaandu | Teaser | Pranav Mohanlal | Arun Gopy

    Arun Gopy’s Irupathiyonnaam Noottaandu is an upcoming Malayalam action-drama feature film starring Pranav Mohanlal and Zaya David in the lead roles. Read more

    The 15 January 2019 by   Themoviean
  • A Year Of Body Positivity

    Year Body Positivity

    Last January, as I sat there on New Years eve all set to make the same old resolutions I've made year after year for as long as I can remember, I realised how... Read more

    The 15 January 2019 by   Sparklesandstretchmarks
  • Garden Bloggers Bloom Day – Jan 2019

    Garden Bloggers Bloom 2019

    Euphorbia rigidaWhen I went out to take the photos for this blog post I was surprised at how much was in flower dotted around the garden. Read more

    The 15 January 2019 by   Patientgardener