Sunday, January 2, 2011
#26 - "Play it as it Lays" by Joan Didion
If you're looking for a pick me up, I might recommend watching It's A Wodnerful Life. What I would not do, is hand you a copy of Play it as it Lays, my 26th book from Time Magazine's list of 100 great English novels. Simply put, this story was a downer. The story was depressing, the characters were depressing, the settings were depressing; it was like watching a car wreck, in the rain, while being hungover.
The story follows Maria, a B-List actress whose life seems to be in tatters. She's divorced, currently separated from her second husband, isn't working, drinks too much, has a child she can't see and hangs around with shallow Hollywood types. The book alternates between a remote desert village where her estranged husband is shooting a movie and her LA home, where she lives alone and doesn't have any friends. She spends her days killing time mostly, seeing people who would claim to be her friends, but who in reality would turn their back on her in a second if it would benefit them. The story includes such heart warming moments are Maria getting an abortion in a hotel room (they were still illegal when this book was written) and holding one of her 'friends' hands as he kills himself with an injection. Oh, and she was also date raped and arrested for stealing a car. Sounds like the sequel to "Love, Actually." Merry Christmas!
Not only is it depressing, it's also a very odd book. By that, I don't mean the story, which despite being depressing isn't anything outlandish, but rather the way it was written. It was like The Da Vinci Code, as it was only 200 pages long, but had 85 chapters, the majority of which were only one or two pages. Some aren't even half a page, and a couple were only one or two sentences. But despite being a little odd, it was well written, the story was interesting and I suppose from a literary standpoint, I enjoyed the book; it was strangely hypnotic and I couldn't stop reading. I'm not sure if I was pulled in by the story or the characters or simply because I thought something had to go right for Maria at some point, but I basically read this book straight through, save a break for turkey dinner. When all was said and done, I read this book in a little over four hours, making it the second fastest book after The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe. I wonder if part of the speed can be attributed to the short chapters, where I'd find myself saying, 'I'll read one more chapter, because it's only two pages long.' Before I'd know it, I'd have read ten more chapters before claiming again, 'just one more chapter.'
My next book, which I'm about a third of the way through, is The Berlin Stories by Christopher Isherwood. I'm not sure where the story is going, but it is set in inter-war Berlin, which should be right up my alley. And so far it isn't in the style of Virginia Wolf or William Faulkner, so I should be safe there.