Didion’s trumpet

     I mean maybe I was holding all the aces, but what was the game? — Joan Didion, Play It As It Lays (1970)

     I doubt if any portrayal of the sordid side of Hollywood (the entertainment industry) equals the brutal scathing honesty of Joan Didion’s 1970 novel Play it as it Lays. Certainly Didion built upon Nathaniel West’s Day of the Locust, which gave us a gritty, grainy portrait indeed of Hollywood’s fiends, misfits, and lost souls. Presumably other works such as James M. Cain’s The Postman Always Rings Twice helped lay the appropriate setting and mood for Didion. But she reached new heights (depths actually) in her dramatization of the ruthlessness and decadence that we have come to associate with the so-called Hollywood lifestyle. Play it is a book of intense realism, heightened by its understated narrative. In that respect, and also in its structure and use of alternate narrators, it reminds me of Faulkner’s The Sound and the Fury. But Didion’s prose is much more accessible than Faulkner’s, and nothing is lost by its unadorned frankness. I was altogether “blown away” by this stark little Hollywood gem.

2 thoughts on “Didion’s trumpet

  1. Pat Fuller

    Chuck – I may have read this book a long time ago. It sounds like the kind of book I would have read, but I don’t remember it specifically. As usual, I love your comparisons, and again I say you should be a professional reviewer. I assume the title of your post is a takeoff on Gideon’s Trumpet, which I just looked up in Wikipedia. It was a book and a movie about a legal case in which the little guys won. Did you read that book, too? It sounds good.

    Pat

    Reply

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