A tense account of privileged angst in the 1960s, Play It As It Lays
translates shockingly well into the modern mania and neurosis of the
millennial bookseller. This modernist nightmare is as compelling as it
is frightening. That I’m only 30 pages in and I know it’s going to
become an often revisited favorite is a good sign.
A ruthless dissection of American life in the late 1960s, Joan Didion's Play It as It Lays captures the mood of an entire generation, the ennui of contemporary society reflected in spare prose that blisters and haunts the reader.
Set in a place beyond good and evil---literally in Hollywood, Las Vegas, and the barren wastes of the Mojave Desert, but figuratively in the landscape of an arid soul---it remains more than three decades after its original publication a profoundly disturbing novel, riveting in its exploration of a woman and a society in crisis and stunning in the still-startling intensity of its prose.
Joan Didion (1934-2021) was the National Book Award-winning author of many works of fiction and nonfiction. After earning a Bachelor’s degree in English at the University of California, Berkeley, she started her literary career writing articles and essays for Vogue, Mademoiselle, Life, The Saturday Evening Post, and National Review, establishing herself as a prominent member of the New Journalism movement. Her books include The White Album, Play It As It Lays, and Slouching Towards Bethlehem.
Shortlisted for the Pulitzer Prize, Didion’s revelatory memoir The Year of Magical Thinking was adapted as a one-woman stage show starring Vanessa Redgrave on Broadway. She also wrote several screenplays with her husband John Gregory Dunne, including Panic in Needle Park with Al Pacino, the second remake of A Star is Born with Barbra Streisand and Kris Kristofferson, and an adaptation of her own Play It As It Lays with Tuesday Weld and Anthony Perkins.
“There hasn't been another American writer of Joan Didion's quality since Nathanel West . . . A terrifying book.” —John Leonard, The New York Times
“Simple, restrained, intelligent, well-structured, witty, irresistibly relentless, forthright in diction, and untainted by the sensational, Play It As It Lays is a book of outstanding literary quality.” —Library Journal
“[A] scathing novel, distilling venom in tiny drops, revealing devastation in a sneer and fear in a handful of atomic dust.” —J. R. Frakes, Book World