Play It As It Lays

  • by Joan Didion
  • Narrated by Lauren Fortgang
  • 3 hrs and 50 mins
  • Unabridged Audiobook

Publisher's Summary

A ruthless dissection of American life in the late 1960s, 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 listener. 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.

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What the Critics Say

"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)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful

Snakes and cracks everywhere

"I was raised to believe that what came in on the next roll would always be better than what when out on the last. I no longer believe that."
- Joan Didion, Play It As It Lays

Warning: This book is not to be read if suicidal, heavily medicated, driving, pregnant, or if you ever dream of walking out, alone, into the Nevada desert and not coming back. This book is pure existential peril. I remember when I was four being specifically afraid of our church's bathroom. I remember thinking the church was hallowed ground. Protected by some benign force. Nothing could get me in the church. I was safe. But I'd sit alone, in a stall, in the bathroom, and look at the white tile, white grout, and see the dark drain on the floor. I'd imagine all the terror that existed under the Church. The snakes that were waiting to crawl through the drain. The devil waiting to pull me into the unsanctified, unhallowed, shit-filled sewers. Yeah, this book made me think of that empty feeling, that feeling that even in safe places there were gaps, snakes, sewers, and darkness.

This book also reminds me a bit of a combination of The Great Gatsby (but told by Daisy in California in the 1960s) and Less Than Zero (but told by Blair and Julian's parents). Actually, hell, the book could be F. Scott and Zelda in the 1960s. Anyway, I get a weird F. Scott and Bret Easton Ellis vibe, with perhaps just a little of Cormac McCarthy's cold Western, existential dread thrown in for flavor. It is one of those novels that is near perfect and also a razor blade under your tongue. It is dangerous and sharp and makes you nervous to find out what is next.

There are snakes and cracks everywhere. Plants die. Memory fades. Nothing matters. Well, O.K. Joan Didion's prose matters. It matters a hell of a lot. Joan Didion's prose just might be one reason to keep living. To keep fighting. To keep turning the damn page and rolling the damn dice.
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- Darwin8u "I write for myself, for my own pleasure. And I want to be left alone to do it. - Salinger ^(;,;)^"

Absolutely Worst Audiobook I've Ever Heard

What could have made this a 4 or 5-star listening experience for you?

If the woman reading this book had read it in a less cartoonishly animated voice


What did you like best about this story?

It's an amazing story, Didion is an all-around prolific writer


What didn’t you like about Lauren Fortgang’s performance?

She clearly had absolutely no understanding of the tone of the book. She sounded like she was reading strawberry shortcake children's book. Her voice is awful.


Any additional comments?

Honestly, I think that this woman's reading was utterly ridiculous. I plan to unsubscribe from audible because I can't believe that anyone would ask me to pay for such an outrageously bad performance.

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- Patricia

Book Details

  • Release Date: 03-27-2013
  • Publisher: Audible Studios