Sunday, July 30, 2006

back page: play it as it lays

play it as it lays by joan didion

"a dirty depressing book that makes me sad for those who believe in nothing (or even an erroneous something). if i want to read about nothing, i think i prefer virginia woolf."

there's a chance that didion did intendion a reaction very similar to my 2003 post-script. the moral of the story may very well be "don't be dirty, believe in something, and read virginia woolf"--well, probably not that last part--or you too will play the lead part in some depressing book from the '70s. it's the requiem for a dream approach: make it (drugs, self-centered moral corruption, whatever your poison) look cool and then mercilessly mash your characters into the dark night of reality, twist that thing (drug, corruption, etc) 180 degrees so that it destroys the protagonists and everyone she knows. and do it graphically. then anyone who reads your book, sees your movie, or hears your dream will think, "there's no way i'll ever do that."

there's also a chance that didion was just telling a story, a story that i apparently found hopeless and without merit. i shared a bit of this didion dislike over coffee with an old english professor of mine. dr. reinsma stopped mid-sip and stared. he then steered the conversation to other matters. it was as if he dismissed my dismissal as the lunacy of a sleepy, inattentive reader. still, despite ms. didion's motives or dr. reinsma's dissension (which may very well be a misattribution on my part; perhaps the good old prof had a coffee curd caught in his throat or was world-weary and tired of discussing such depressing books), i still recommend leaving as it lays where it lays. if you spot it in the $1 barrel, leave it there, that's where it belongs.

beth the s.o. "the dirty depraved one visits a cracking globe at the united nations" nyc, ny.

by the way, my association between "nothing" and virginia woolf is related to her novel to the lighthouse, in which the book goes on and on and on and on but nothing ever seems to happen. however, i was probably hoping to suggest that the nothingness in va woolf was somehow an acceptable, reading-worthy nothingness.


Joel said...

Try "Slouching Towards Bethlehem," a collection of some of her nonfiction writings. I've yet to read Didion's fiction, but love this.

andrew said...

maybe she's more talented at sharing from real life than fiction? when reinsma and i almost had that conversation, he was in the midst of enjoying 'the year of magical thinking,' a memoir about the death of didion's husband. perhaps she's just a more talented essayist than fiction writer. after all, publishers weekly referred to "the year..." as a "long awaited return to...personal essays."

in any case, i'll check out "slouching..." the next time i'm at half price books.

Joel said...

She does get lumped into the "New Journalism" school. I always thought of her as a creative nonfiction writer who happened to write some fiction, though in truth I suppose she's done both equally - perhaps even more fiction. She has a certain cold-bloodedness that allows her to be brutally honest without much fanfare.

I liked this piece, about the Terry Schiavo case:

andrew said...

maybe the cold-blooded aseptic tone is what didn't appeal to me. i haven't checked out your link yet, but i the moment i'm busy learning about lectio divina.

andrew said...

the article was alright. i drifted in and out and then skipped to the end, but i'm not sure if that was didion or my waning interest in the schiavos.