Play It as It Lays: A Review

November 15, 2010 | NeW Staff

The NeW chapter at Ohio State has finished their first book of the school year – Play it as it Lays by Joan Didion published in 1970. We all found it to be a dark, but very powerful book.

To give you a quick synopsis, the main character, Maria (pronounced “mar-eye-ah”) is telling the audience about how she came to be in a mental institution. As a former actress and wife of a director, she shows how Hollywood has left her empty and has led her to self-destructive behavior. She drinks; she hooks-up with random actors; she sleeps outside; she drives just to drive.

The book itself is set up in short chapters that pinpoint different instances in Maria’s life that lead to her current state. Some of the instances are more outwardly profound than others – for example, she is forced into getting an abortion by her husband, which haunts her throughout the book – but all instances hold meaning, no matter how simple or meaningless they seem at first.

Ultimately, the book illustrates how Hollywood, along with its culture of heavy drinking, drugs, and hook-ups, leaves a person feeling empty – ripped of free-will and control and left wanting the more important things in life – a family (in this case, Maria’s daughter, Kate), a quiet life, and people who love her; not want to use her.

The book ends open-ended; without a firm conclusion or direction, but I think that makes it most powerful.

I suggest you all read this book – it’s a quick read and really captivating. It’s one of the few conservative books written during the 70s, and Joan Didion does a wonderful job of capturing the mood of Hollywood life that still applies today. You can order it at a very low price over Amazon or get it at the library if you’re a student! Check it out!

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