re-Play It As It Lays

I recently re-watched Play It As It Lays. (I could do with re-reading the novel at some point.)

It’s hard to articulate how I feel about it, but, of course, I’ll try.

First, there’s the fact of Joan Didion. I really enjoy her essays, and I liked this book (her only fiction I’ve read). However, I think Thom Andersen is right in his criticism of her and her ilk in Los Angeles Plays Itself (“Forget the mystical blatherings of Joan Didion and company about the automobile and the freeways. They say nobody walks. They mean no rich white people like us walk.”): She’s writing from a certain class about a certain class. Not everybody leads lives of wealth and seeming leisure like the characters of this book/movie. In that way this story reminds me of The Great Gatsby: It’s good literature/film but not universal — you have to keep in mind its context when interpreting the characters’ actions.

So on one hand Maria Wyeth is sympathetic as *depressed woman who believes life lacks meaning*; on the other she’s wealthy and spoiled, and really could use a lesson in reality. Not everyone, for example, can be renting a house and then decide to go rent an apartment too because they don’t want to deal with the things the house means. Also, frankly, not everyone has the time to ponder what ails them. Some people are just trying to get by. (Though in thinking of “trying to get by” (Maslow’s Hierarchy-style), I imagined Maria in Lord of the Flies. I think she could probably pull off *depressed woman who believes life lacks meaning* there too…)

Two scenes stuck out to me this time:

1. BZ explaining to Maria how he deals with life: what his grandfather did, what his father did, and what he’s done.

2. The woman who runs the motel asking Maria “Don’t you have any hobbies?” and explaining how her life ended up at this point.

two possible options for Maria? — acceptance or action? In the end she chooses something else, and I’m not sure whether that choice is just a product of her lifestyle or the only real option she has.

Basically: · I’m conflicted about how to interpret her. · Any interpretation will say more about me than the character. · I should re-read the book. · And I apparently think Lord of the Flies the kind of book that could toughen up a character.

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2 Responses to re-Play It As It Lays

  1. p says:

    i really like her style of writing, but her stories actually kind of bother me cos they only deal with bored, white, rich people. she’s like bret easton ellis (or bret easton ellis is like her) except that he has a darker take on los angeles. hey! does this mean we’re picking up the “negative connotations of los angeles in literature” conversation again?

  2. admin says:

    her non-fiction doesn’t only deal with only that though. but yeah, i’ve never found a single sympathetic characters in any bret easton ellis book i’ve read. (I have not read American Psycho though.)

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