"Life is what happens to you while you're busy making other plans". - John Lennon

The parallels of Play it as it Lays and Revolutionary Road 

I just finished reading Play it as it Lays and found the story to be both extraordinary and moving.  Upon reflection, I lay on my bed staring at the ceiling, thinking about the characters and felt my heart become heavy with sadness. It was then that I realized the emotions I felt mirrored that of a movie I had recently seen; Revolutionary Road. Both of these stories affected me in a profound way. Both tell stories of women who are stuck in time. Both women seem and feel capable of changing their situations, and yet do nothing.  Both women seem to see their lives clearly, but decent in to darkness through sheer desperation. There may be something in the fact that both stories are set in similar eras. 1950's and 1960's.  In any case, I related to these women in so many ways. Both women; Maria and April try to keep their dream and lives fluid, you watch as they both painfully, slowly crumble.  The most terrifying part is how easily and swiftly their lives broke in to pieces.  I cried buckets after both of these stories and will forever be changed by having encountered such harrowing characters.  

For parents, married couples, singles, special needs parents, and ambitious types; this is a journey you need to take!

 

Play it As it Lays by Joan Didion

“What makes Iago evil? Some people ask. I never ask.” So opens Joan Didion’s spellbinding novel PLAY IT AS IT LAYS, immediately encapsulating the novel’s mood of weary nihilism and the lawless California setting where morality and the debate of good versus evil are beside the point.

Composed of terse chapters that burst to life and flicker out as quickly as they appear, PLAY IT AS IT LAYS is a hypnotic novel that lingers long after the story ends. It is the story of former actress and model Maria Wyeth’s descent into madness, told through alternating points of view and perspectives. Between first-person accounts of Maria, her friend Helene, and her ex-husband and director Carter Lang, as well as sections of prose conducted in the third person.

Maria spends most of her days haphazardly driving the California freeways with no destination. She flashes back to her life before her breakdown, from her humble beginnings in a small Nevada town, to the rise of her stardom in New York, and her proceeding journey to Hollywood.

She mourns for her estranged daughter, Kate, who is being treated in an institution for a vague “aberrant chemical in her brain,” in tender sections that form the book’s emotional core.

It can be difficult for a writer to convincingly portray another character when much of her work is either autobiographical or based upon her personal observations and interpretations of the world; likewise, it can be hard for readers to see her work through another lens. But PLAY IT AS IT LAYS is proof that Didion can embody a character other than herself and infuse it with life. She creates a compelling and vivid character in Maria while maintaining her own singular, elegiac voice and preserving the underlying epochal motifs of all of her work, most notably that somehow graceful fall.

This is not a cheerful novel, rather a poignant portrayal of passivity and its emerging depth of tragedy. You will not be able to put this book down. It is a beautiful disaster.

Revolutionary Road by Richard Yates



"Revolutionary Road" shows the American Dream awakened by a nightmare. It takes place in the 1950s.  It shows a young couple who meet at a party, get married and create a suburban life with a nice house, a manicured lawn, two kids, a job in the city for him, housework for her, martinis, cigarettes.  

The Wheelers, Frank and April, are blinded by love into believing life together will allow them to fulfill their fantasies. Their problem is, they have no fantasies. Instead, they have yearnings -- a hunger for something more than a weary slog into middle age. 

Frank (Leonardo DiCaprio) and April (Kate Winslet) can't see inviting futures for themselves. April suggests Frank just quit, so they can move to Paris, she can support them as a translator at the American Embassy and he can figure out what he really wants to do. 

Frank agrees, and they think they're poised to take flight, when suddenly he's offered a promotion and a raise. He has no choice, right? He'll be just as miserable, but better paid. I

In today's hard times, that sounds necessary, but maybe all times are hard when you hate your life.

Frank and April have ferocious fights about his decision, and we realize that April was largely motivated by her own needs. When April performs her own home abortion, her life is taken when she hemorrhages. It is a sad portrayal of desperation.  A tragedy amidst a search for a simple life and a simple dream. 

 


Thank you for Roger Ebert and Nikki Barnhart.

Leave a comment