“Play It As It Lays,” by Joan Didion

Novel, 1970 Savage novel about an actress whose career and life both appear to be on the skids and which offers little in the way of either relief or comfort. This is a book of alienation and the surface glitz of a shiny, showbiz world, overlaid with real tragedy, abuse and the horror of a life deteriorating. A beautifully written piece as well; Didion’s choppy … Continue reading “Play It As It Lays,” by Joan Didion

“The White Album”, by Joan Didion

Non-fiction, 1979 Essays on a wide range of subjects, using the 1960s almost as a ‘jumping off’ point and usually instilling then with domestic and personal investment. There’s no particular world view or attitude advanced in these pieces otherwise, but the collection feels like a series of snapshots, recording the time, but now standing as a different thing entirely; a document of where power, politics, … Continue reading “The White Album”, by Joan Didion

"The Year of Magical Thinking," by Joan Didion

Non-fiction, 2005 An account of Joan Didion’s coping and mourning the death of her husband at a time when their daughter was also perilously ill. Didion’s mixture of terror and bemusement when negotiating every day events and reminders feels detached at times until there’s a crack in the narrative action or town, which suddenly brings the tragedy into sharp focus. This isn’t a book with … Continue reading "The Year of Magical Thinking," by Joan Didion

"Slouching Towards Bethlehem," by Joan Didion

Non-fiction, 1968 New Journalism without quite the crushing egotism and boorishness of either Hunter S Thompson or Tom Wolfe, focusing around a piece describing, in human terms, the human wreckage around Haight-Ashbury in the Summer of Love. This, and other pieces, are often wonderfully written, mixing an air of despair with one of nonchalance and painting an America roiling and clashing with itself and in … Continue reading "Slouching Towards Bethlehem," by Joan Didion