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Play It As It Lays: A Novel (FSG Classics) (Paperback)

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By Joan Didion, David Thomson (Introduction by)
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Staff Reviews

“What makes Iago evil? some people ask. I never ask.” These are the opening words of Didion’s morose, devastating novel Play It as It Lays. The reference to Shakespeare’s infamous villain is more than mere literary signaling, however, serving the dual purposes of introducing the novel’s main preoccupations and indicating its lead character’s general despondency and emotional paralysis. From here, Didion crafts a bleak and harrowing tale of 1960s Hollywood­­—a world as sinister as it is decadent. At its center is Maria Wyeth, a disillusioned actress whose life is plunged into turmoil after her philandering husband has their ill child institutionalized against Maria’s will. Told in a spare, striking voice and from multiple narrative perspectives, Play It as It Lays is at turns sordid, troubling, and debauched, but its investigation of post-war American ennui, it cannot be matched. I love this book!

— Chad


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.

About the Author

Joan Didion is the author of many works of fiction and nonfiction, as well as several screenplays written with her late husband, John Gregory Dunne. Her books include The White Album, Play It As It Lays, and Slouching Towards Bethlehem. She lives in New York City.

David Thomson is a film critic and historian based in the United States. He is the author of books including The New Biographical Dictionary of Film (6th edition, 2014), and a regular contributor to The New York Times, The New Republic, Movieline, Film Comment and Salon.

Praise For…

“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

Product Details
ISBN: 9780374529949
ISBN-10: 0374529949
Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux
Publication Date: November 15th, 2005
Pages: 240
Language: English
Series: FSG Classics
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