Print: Play It As It Lays by Joan Didion (1970)
Some books bite back. I started reading Didion with a great gusto, only to toss the book away twice in one hour. One of the Great American Legends, Didion sees right through the national pathos and the glory of Hollywood sunsets. The central character, a broken actress named Maria, wastes her life away on highways and in motel rooms. Play It As It Lays features a main protagonist so tired and empty it makes you want to take a Xanax nap right away: but the gloom isn’t an end in itself. The writing is bullet-clear and heavy, and reads like a strange L.A. manifesto. If you’re willing to invest some time, this book won’t leave you cold.
You’ll enjoy it if you liked: Alice Munro’s short stories, Sylvia Plath’s poetry (I’ve never read her prose), [CZ] Jan Balabán’s short stories
Blog: What If I Lose My Excellent Lifestyle? by Heather Havrilesky
I’m a huge fan of the Ask Polly column, and this episode is one of my favorites. It attacks the vague, paralyzing privilege-guilt with such a self-irony it actually makes you smile. Read it here.
Quote: The Formula for Happiness by Philip Braham
The formula for unhappiness is that whatever you do, you think of what else you could be doing; or where else you could be; or people you would prefer to be with. The formula for happiness is the opposite.